Yates’ cool fin­ish clinches first Tour win

Bri­ton sprints to vic­tory in first Pyre­nees stage Aus­tralian Den­nis quits af­ter dis­pute with team

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Tour De France - By Tom Cary CY­CLING COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Bag­neres-de-bigorre

‘I heard I needed to ar­rive at the last cor­ner in first and I did that’

There was a time when British suc­cess in grand tours seemed some­how oth­er­worldly, the pre­serve of ad­ven­tur­ers and dream­ers who had jour­neyed to Europe and man­aged to up­set the odds against the es­tab­lished cy­cling na­tions, Bel­gium, France and Italy. How quickly these things be­come nor­malised.

A day that started with Chris Froome be­ing ret­ro­spec­tively awarded the 2011 Vuelta a Es­pana ti­tle – his sev­enth grand tour suc­cess – ended with Si­mon Yates pulling off a sensationa­l vic­tory on stage 12 of the Tour de France. With the race hit­ting the Pyre­nees for the first time, the Bury-born rider (Mitchel­ton-scott) suc­cess­fully in­fil­trated the day’s 40-man break­away be­fore es­cap­ing with two oth­ers, Pello Bil­bao (As­tana) and Gregor Muhlberger (Bora-hans­grohe) on the fi­nal climb of the day, La Hour­quette d’an­cizan.

The trio then worked to­gether to ex­tend their ad­van­tage on the de­scent into Bag­neres-de-bigorre, where it was Yates who won the three-man sprint.

It was a cool fin­ish from the for­mer points race world cham­pion, who has now won stages at all three grand tours as well as the over­all ti­tle at last year’s Vuelta a Es­pana.

Ten min­utes later Yates was fol­lowed by the main bunch, which was be­ing con­trolled by a British team, Ineos, rid­ing for Welsh­man Geraint Thomas, who is the race’s vir­tual mail­lot jaune.

Thomas still trails Julian Alaphilipp­e (De­ce­un­inck-quick­step) by 1min 12sec in the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion, with the French­man surviving the first day in the Pyre­nees with no is­sues. But Thomas can ex­pect to win back at least half of that time in to­day’s 27.2-kilo­me­tre time trial in Pau.

And with the race then hit­ting the moun­tains proper, with sum­mit fin­ishes on the Tour­malet to come to­mor­row and then Foix Prat d’al­bis on Sun­day, most pun­dits be­lieve Alaphilipp­e’s early ex­er­tions in this race will be­gin to show and Thomas will in­herit yellow.

The ex­traor­di­nary thing is how or­di­nary this all seems. Thirty years ago, in­di­vid­ual stage wins by British riders at the Tour were rare. Since then, Mark Cavendish has won 30, Froome seven, David Mil­lar four, Chris Board­man three, and Bradley Wig­gins and Steve Cum­mings two apiece. That ac­counts for well over half the to­tal of 70 British stage wins in the race’s 100year plus his­tory.

Yates was typ­i­cally un­der­stated af­ter­wards. “I wasn’t su­per-con­fi­dent in my own sprint, but you never re­ally know af­ter such a long day how fresh the other guys are, how fast,” he said. “I just heard from my di­rec­tor that I needed to ar­rive at the last cor­ner in first po­si­tion, and I did that.”

The truth is the only way it could have gone any bet­ter was if his twin, Adam, sev­enth over­all at 1min 47sec, had cun­ningly switched places with­out any­one notic­ing, and put 10 min­utes into his gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion ri­vals.

The day’s other big talk­ing point re­volved around Ro­han Den­nis (Bahrain-merida), who was seen hav­ing a blaz­ing row with mem­bers of his team’s sup­port staff be­fore the start in Toulouse.

The Aus­tralian pro­ceeded to climb off his bike at a feed zone mid-stage and quit the race. Bahrain-merida de­clined to com­ment, but there was talk of Den­nis be­ing un­happy with his equip­ment and the team – which has part­nered with Mclaren this year – in gen­eral.

It means Den­nis, one of the strongest time tri­al­lists in the world, misses out on the chance to com­pete for a stage win in Pau to­day. Thomas will not mind. Not that he is rac­ing the Aus­tralian over­all, but he has a bet­ter chance of win­ning the stage him­self with­out Den­nis there. The 2018 cham­pion is ex­pected to put between half a minute and a minute into most of his main ri­vals on a hilly course.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to to­mor­row,” Thomas said. “It’s been quite hard, wait­ing and wait­ing, but to­mor­row I’ll get to go all in. I’ve rid­den it al­ready three times. I like it. It’s fast and it should be hard. It’s go­ing to be a big day.”

Break­away group: Britain’s Si­mon Yates leads Gregor Muhlberger and Pello Bil­bao yesterday

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