Adam Yates has grown in his roll as a Tour de France podium contender, so much so that the 23-year-old says that he is not afraid to challenge race leader Chris Froome if the chance comes in the final four mountainous stages.
On Tuesday the Tour is resting in Bern, Switzerland, before it heads into the mountains. The British leader of Orica-BikeExchange sits in third at 2-45 minutes behind Sky’s Froome and just less than a minute behind Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) in second place. Experienced Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar), second twice behind Froome in Tour, is at 2-59 behind Froome.
“Why not?” Yates said of attacking Froome, who dominated the two Tour’s that he has won so far in 2013 and 2015.
“He looks strong. I can’t see him having a bad day, but why not? If he does have a moment of weakness, then why not try something?”
Yates spoke in the conference room of the Bern Holiday Inn, an hour’s drive from Sky’s hotel south of the city alongside Lake Thuner. Earlier in the day, Froome told press that he does not consider Yates as much as a threat as Quintana.
“I wouldn’t expect him to put me under pressure and attack in a big mountain stage,” said Froome, “but he is holding his spot, which is extremely impressive for a rider his age.”
The cyclist from Bury, twin brother of Orica-BikeExchange’s Simon Yates, looked surprised when hearing that Froome would not expect such attacks on his yellow jersey.
“He wouldn’t? Well, we’ll see,” Yates said, showing a new level of confidence reached over the last two weeks.
“Nothing chances, though. Sky will ride on the front at a super strong tempo, and people will attack him if there’s a moment. I can attack him. In terms of actual tactics, though, nothing’s changed.”
Watch: A preview of stages 17-21
Yates must ride 184.5 kilometres on Wednesday over the Col de la Forclaz and up the summit finish to Finhaut-Emosson. On Thursday, he will face a 17-kilometre uphill time trial to Megève over the Côte des Chazeaux. Then there is the weekend, a summit finish stage to Saint-Gervais and the final testing stage over the Joux Plane pass down to Morzine.
“I’ve reconned every stage now, other than the one to Paris which I did last year,” Yates said. “I did the climb [to Finhaut Emosson] in the Dauphiné two years ago. It’s steep, which kind of suits the small guys like me better. It’s going to be a tough day, there’s not many people who are fresh and ready to go 16 days into the Tour.”
Yates spoke calmly and with a new level of maturity. Already in his second Tour de France, he appears to be well-adjusted. The change came quickly given that the team fielded him not for the classification, but for stage wins.
Now, he is holding on for a third place overall and the white jersey of best young rider. He leads by 3-03 minutes over the next best young rider, Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida). Even if he comes away from the Tour empty handed, this experience will serve him for the future.
“In terms of racing, nothing’s changed, I’ve raced like this since I was young,” Yates said.
“OK, it’s the Tour de France, but not that all of a sudden it’s a big thing for me. Right now, I’m racing, but that’s experience, every day progressing, so I can have that in the future when I ride for the classification from the start.
“The protocols with the white jersey, every day on the podium and interviews, late to leave, hopefully it’s a lesson for the future.”