Just beneath the summit of the 1,210m Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar, where Fabio Aru had given Astana a morale-boosting stage win in the Vuelta a Espana, the team buses were crowded into a car park, waiting for their passengers to ride back down the hill.
Adam Yates rolled to a halt beside his team manager Neil Stephens. “Well done mate, good ride,” said the Australian to the 22-year-old British neo-pro.
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Yates, it has to be said, didn’t look thrilled, though he wasn’t looking knackered either after his 153km ride in 30 degree temperatures.
“My job today was to try to get into the early break that went, the trouble was was that everyone else was trying to get in the break too and I didn’t make it,” reported Yates rather disconsolately.
You rather get the feeling that if the break had been given a bit of room, Yates would have fancied his chances on the final 10km climb to the summit.
“From that point on I was to help out and then sit up, take it easy and ride up the climb to the finish, that was my day done,” concluded Yates, learning the ropes on a team riding as a General Classification squad for the first time.
Eleven stages into the Vuelta, Stephens has been pleased with his riders.
“It’s a different thing riding for the GC,” explained Stephens, “I mean, on a day like this, a mountain top finish, a lot of the guys would just have ridden in, but because we’re trying to work with Esteban [Chaves] to see what he can do. They’ve all got jobs to do every day, it’s a different kind of approach for a lot of them, but it’s good motivation.”
With just over half the race gone, there would be plenty of other harder days ahead for the Orica team and for Grand Tour rookies Yates and Chaves. A few more opportunities too, you imagine.
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