Yates keeps yel­low jer­sey as con­tenders play it safe

Bri­ton still leads as pelo­ton refuse to pur­sue break­away Kazakh Lut­senko holds off Spain’s Her­rada for solo vic­tory

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Rugby Union - By Tom Cary

He promised us “one hell of a bat­tle” on yes­ter­day’s sum­mit fin­ish in the Mas­sif Cen­tral. But in the end Adam Yates did not even need to get his el­bows out or grit his teeth as he com­fort­ably held on to his yel­low jer­sey for an­other day.

Much to ev­ery­one’s dis­may, the ex­pected gun­fight between the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion con­tenders never ma­te­ri­alised. A hot day, 30C down on the val­ley floor as the pelo­ton wended its way from Le Teil in the Ardeche over to the spec­tac­u­lar Mont Aigoual in the Mas­sif Cen­tral, was partly re­spon­si­ble for the lack of fire­works. But more than that, it is the fact that the Tour’s route plan­ners chose to pack the first week of this year’s edi­tion with moun­tains and sum­mit fin­ishes. Any­one who goes out too hard now will pay for it in week three. So, in­stead, they are all bid­ing their time.

Yes­ter­day, an eight-man break did form, which Mitchel­ton-Scott were happy to see dis­ap­pear up the road, and the GC con­tenders marked each other for the rest of the stage. Alexey Lut­senko of As­tana even­tu­ally pre­vailed, the Kazakh pow­er­ing clear on the Col de la Lusette with 17km re­main­ing, and then hold­ing off a surge from Je­sus Her­rada (Cofidis) to score a solo win.

The yel­low jer­sey group fin­ished nearly three min­utes later, with only Ju­lian Alaphilipp­e of the GC group seem­ingly mo­ti­vated to win back a bit of pride as he put in a late burst on Mont Aigoual but only re­cov­ered one sec­ond on Yates.

Yates said he was not sur­prised. “In the fi­nal, the steeper climb [Col de la Lusette] was a lit­tle far out [to at­tack]. And then the fin­ish wasn’t too hard, it was quite shal­low. So if you at­tack there it’s dif­fi­cult to gain sec­onds and you make a big ef­fort. I think ev­ery­one is keep­ing their pow­der dry.”

The lack of ac­tion for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive day prompted a bit of whinge­ing among cycling fans, with some ques­tion­ing why at least one GC con­tender was not pre­pared to risk some­thing. And some of them might re­gret not giv­ing it a go when they fin­ish eighth or ninth in Paris.

Yates in­sisted again that he was not in­ter­ested in fin­ish­ing high up on GC. “Even though I’m sit­ting in the yel­low jer­sey, I want to win a stage,” he said. “We came here to win stages. So far it hasn’t hap­pened. To­day wasn’t the day. It was about sav­ing en­ergy. Once we get to the high moun­tains I can try some­thing.”

Some think Yates is bluff­ing. That if he stays in yel­low through the Pyre­nees this week­end he will have no choice but to start fo­cus­ing on the over­all stand­ings, es­pe­cially if he sees that other con­tenders are not as strong as ev­ery­one thought. Tom Du­moulin (Jumbo) had a tough day on Tues­day, while doubts have emerged over Egan Ber­nal’s back.

Stage seven to­day from Mil­lau to Lavaur is al­most guar­an­teed to end in a sprint. Not that Yates is get­ting overly ex­cited. “As a kid grow­ing up ev­ery­one wants to wear yel­low at the Tour de France. It was a nice ex­pe­ri­ence. Hope­fully we can keep it for a few more days at least.”

Leader of the pack: Adam Yates was able to stay in the pelo­ton to re­tain his yel­low jer­sey

All alone: Alexey Lut­senko cel­e­brates as he crosses the fin­ish line on Mont Aigoual

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