During the race’s visit to France on Saturday, Yates attacked on the penultimate climb, put the team’s rivals on the back foot and gained time. The move worked in leader Esteban Chaves’s favour, but Yates gained the most.
“Today was more of a team performance, we really nailed that,” Yates said after dismounting his black Scott bike. “It’s the best since I’ve been on this team really. Everyone was committed to the plan and it worked out perfectly.”
With his attack, Yates was the biggest classification mover of the day. He gained 1-08 on overall leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Chris Froome (Sky), and went from 3-25 minutes behind to 2-17.
“We made a plan at the start, and we executed it to how we wanted it. I was pretty tired there, and I am not even sure how it worked out,” Yates added.
“I gave it full-gas. There were a lot of riders up the road, it’s normal that guys are tired. It’s normal because I was in the bunch all day, and I was fresher.”
Orica’s plan involved having numbers up the road so that when Yates attacked, he would be supported. The Australian WorldTour team succeeded with three in the 40-man move of the day: Simon Gerrans, Jens Keukeleire and Magnus Cort Nielsen. Movistar also had three, Sky counted one with David Lopez.
Yates did not wait until the final Aubisque climb, but flew free on the Col de Marie Blanque immediately after teammate Jack Haig went. He linked up with Haig and rode over to join Keukeleire and Cort. From there, he picked off fading men from the escape group one by one and gained precious seconds on the classification.
“We managed to have guys in the break, which was the plan. It worked out too. I got the guys right at the top there. And then we railed it and the valley road there as well, so hats off to the guys because we executed that really well. And then I went for gas on the climb, and that hurt!”
Chaves, who sits third overall, marked Froome and Quintana. He made his move after a series of attacks by Quintana to shake Froome and gained 33 seconds. More time gains and losses are expected on Sunday when the peloton tackles the 14.5km summit finish to the Aramón Formigal ski station.
Already, Yates is having his best Grand Tour. He won his first stage early in the first week and sits fourth overall – a performance similar his twin bother Adam Yates’s in the Tour de France with fourth overall and the white jersey of best young rider.