Adam Yates blasted through the snow and attacked the best in the sport to arrive seventh on Monte Terminillo in Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico stage race today.
The 22-year-old Brit only lost sight of stage winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing), but held his own on the 16.1 kilometre uphill finish with cycling's top grand tour rider, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). He attacked and he marked attacks to finish seventh on the stage at 55 seconds.
"It's big for me," Yates said on the steps of the Orica-GreenEdge bus, protected from the falling snow and freezing temperatures. "I showed that I can stay up there with some of the best climbers in the world today."
His small group of six also included Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick Step), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale). All but Pozzovivo have stood on the steps of a grand tour podium.
"Right now my legs are sore," he added, "but it was a pretty good performance."
Yates showered and changed before opening the door to the Orica bus to speak to Cycling Weekly. The snow kept falling outside, but he laughed it off. Across the icy car park, 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) would not speak to press after losing 2-16 to Quintana and slightly less to Yates’ group.
"Obviously, Quintana knocked the f**k out of us," Yates said. "He was going quickly, no one really reacted. He was clearly the strongest in the race."
The Colombian attacked on the summit finish, with no one able to go with him
Quintana shot clear of a thinning group under five kilometres to race to the ski lodge. Nibali began to lose ground. Yates kept touch with Contador and the others, and even attacked himself with 2.2 kilometres remaining.
"When these guys start going, you just have to follow or if you don't have good legs, just go at your own tempo. I was feeling pretty good up until the last two or three kilometres, then I started feeling it a bit,” continued Yates.
"When Mollema went free, I tried going across to him, but there was a big headwind on the climb. I tried, but I just finished in the group because I was pretty dead."
Seventh place on the stage and sixth place in the overall at 1-04, is not a win but it counts for something considering Yates is only in his second year and is so young.
The result confirms his first year in 2014, which included a similar high ride of sixth place in the Critérium du Dauphiné against Sky's Chris Froome, Contador, Nibali and overall winner Andrew Talansky.
He looked out at the snow and cursed. Had the organiser not cancelled the stage one team time trial due to high winds and downed trees in the days leading up to the race, he believes he would have been higher up in the overall standings.
"This snow is nothing, but they were blaming the wind and fallen trees, yet they had two days to clear it up. I'm a bit bitter,” Yates added.
“We got a bit flicked because we could've been 30 seconds up on some of the other teams that don't have a strong time trial. If the race organiser think that's OK, then so be it."
The race continues with a flat stage tomorrow and ends with a 10.05 kilometre time trial on Italy's east coast in San Benedetto del Tronto on Tuesday. Yates is afraid that he will lose 40 seconds and slip out of the top 10.
"I'm trying to work on my time trial, but some of these guys go pretty quickly," Yates said. "I do what I can, if that's good enough for a top 10, I'll be happy, if not..."
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