Yates fades away as Roglic fi­nally seizes yel­low jersey

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Tennis - By Tom Cary Cycling Cor­re­spon­dent in Laruns

Af­ter nine days of thrills, spills and Covid-19 con­trols, the race for the mail­lot jaune at the 107th Tour de France is re­ally start­ing to take shape now. Un­for­tu­nately, it looks as if that race will no longer in­clude Adam Yates. A riv­et­ing ninth stage through a wet and misty Pyre­nees ended yes­ter­day with the Bri­ton dis­tanced, drop­ping al­most a minute to the lead­ers, and a pair of Slove­ni­ans in the as­cen­dancy.

Tadej Po­gacar (UAE Team Emi­rates), a 21-year-old ris­ing star of the sport, was the day’s win­ner – the youngest win­ner, in fact, of a Tour stage since Lance Arm­strong in 1993. Po­gacar out­sprinted a se­lect group of rid­ers into Laruns, claw­ing back yet more of the 80-odd sec­onds he lost in the cross­winds on Fri­day. He now lies seventh over­all, 44 sec­onds be­hind the yel­low jersey, and will be one to watch closely in the Alps next week.

Af­ter Egan Ber­nal be­came the Tour’s youngest win­ner in 110 years last year at the age of 22, some

be­lieve Po­gacar could re­write his­tory again just 12 months later.

Ber­nal will do his best to stop him. Ineos’s Colom­bian climber had a much bet­ter time yes­ter­day on a spe­cial day for the Bri­tish team, start­ing as it did in Pau, the home town of Nico Por­tal, their muchloved sport­ing di­rec­tor who died sud­denly of a heart at­tack ear­lier this year.

Ber­nal at­tacked re­peat­edly on the fi­nal climb of the day, the ver­tig­i­nous Col de Marie Blanque, to sug­gest his form is build­ing at just the right time. And he has his favourite, long Alpine climbs still to come.

But it was Pri­moz Roglic (Jum­boVisma), Po­gacar’s el­der com­pa­triot and the big pre-race favourite, who is sit­ting pretty in yel­low as the race heads to Char­ente-Mar­itime, on France’s west coast, for to­day’s first rest day.

Roglic had looked slightly ten­ta­tive on the first stage in the Pyre­nees on Sat­ur­day, de­cid­ing against go­ing with Po­gacar when the younger rider es­caped over the top of the Peyre­sourde and al­most cer­tainly miss­ing the chance to move into yel­low as a re­sult. He did not make the same mis­take yes­ter­day.

Sun­web’s Swiss rider, Marc Hirschi, had es­caped early on and rid­den solo for over 80kilo­me­tres in an at­tempt to pull off what would have been an in­cred­i­ble vic­tory. He al­most man­aged it, too.

But when Roglic, Po­gacar, Ber­nal and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) put on the af­ter­burn­ers on the Col de Marie Blanque, drop­ping Yates and a host of other gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion con­tenders in the process, a lead that once stood at more than four min­utes quickly came down. Roglic’s group caught Hirschi with 1.5km of the run-in re­main­ing, with Po­gacar just out­sprint­ing his fel­low Slove­nian for the win.

Yates, who had fought back bril­liantly on Sat­ur­day af­ter be­ing dropped on the Peyre­sourde, came home 54 sec­onds later in the third tranche of race favourites.

Af­ter four days in yel­low, the 28-year-old was jus­ti­fi­ably proud, as well as ex­hausted. He ad­mit­ted that he might now look to lose time on pur­pose to be al­lowed more lee­way to go for stage wins in the third week.

“It was a big hon­our rid­ing in yel­low,” he said. “It was fun while it lasted. I did ev­ery­thing I could.

“I said from the very be­gin­ning, even be­fore the Tour started, that I wasn’t at 100 per cent [due to ill­ness]. But I think we did well. We hung on for as long as we could. And yeah, there are a cou­ple of guys go­ing bet­ter than me. I think we can be proud.”

Asked whether he might sit up to­mor­row on stage 10 from Ile d’Oleron to Ile de Re – as­sum­ing the race is still go­ing ahead af­ter to­day’s Covid-19 tests – Yates con­ceded he might. “We’ll have to look at it,” he said. “The next cou­ple of days are flat, it might be pretty easy to lose some time, but I think I’m go­ing to look for­ward to the rest day first be­fore we start think­ing about next week.”

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