A lack of pressure bearing down on his shoulders paid of for Adam Yates at the Tour de France as he wrapped up third place today.
The British rider from Bury, Lancashire came into the Tour de France as a domestique deluxe for yellow jersey challenge of two-time Tour winner Tadej Pogačar but right from day one he put himself in contention for a good GC result by winning the stage and taking the race lead.
While he later lost the jersey he then, bit-by-bit, consolidated his position and he lifted himself onto the podium at the start of the third week with a seventh place in the time trial.
All that was left to do in the Tour’s final mountain stage today was to mark moves from those close behind him. He did that successfully, inadvertently helping his brother Simon jump past Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) to fourth on GC in the process, when Simon attacked and dropped the Spaniard before Adam bridged across to him to protect his own GC place.
Speaking after the race he said: “I definitely came in, myself, with less pressure. When you ride for yourself you have the whole team on your back... I came in relaxed. The team knew I was good, and I think that helped with my consistency. I found my level, there were only two guys a little bit better than me.”
The UAE Emirates rider was visibly stress-free in his post Tour press conference. Asked if he might have his own GC opportunities now, after bagging such a result he said: “When I signed for the team - I first spoke to them this time last year I was in Greece on holiday - their whole idea for me was to come to the Tour and be the last man for Tadej.
“It’s worked well this year and I managed to get a podium out of it. Whether I get leadership in another Grand Tour that’s not up for me to decide the team whether they want me to go to the Tour, whether they want me to go the Vuelta, whether they want me to go to the Tour of Guangxi and target GC then I’ll do it.”
Yates has been effusive in his praise of his team-leader throughout the race. Yates had started as a co-leader with doubts over Pogačar’s form after a broken wrist forced him off the bike for five weeks in the crucial Tour de France build-up phase of his training, but he has been keen to point out that Pogačar’s result was his main concern. Even though Pogačar slipped out of contention with a disastrous day in the high Alps in the third week of the Tour Yates’s dedication did not slip.
Asked if Pogačar was still, as Yates had said he was earlier in the race, “the best rider in the world” he said: “For me yes. Obviously, we lost the Tour, but when someone can win the Tour of Flanders and beat the best Classics riders in the world and they come to the Tour de France and beat some of the best climbers in the world, well, there's not many people who can do that throughout history.”
He added that although people might question Pogačar’s quality after his defeat at the legs of Jonas Vingegaard that maintaining his high level of physical performance throughout the year was “not easy”.
Yates added that Pogačar’s personality helped to galvanize and lift the team. “When you have a leader like Tadej it’s more enjoyable, because he’s always good,” Yates siad. “Even when he’s bad he’s good, coming onto the bus making jokes. He’s here for us mentally and physically. It’s been an enjoyable Grand Tour. We didn’t have any really stressful days.”
Though Yates, despite being new to the team also has had a role to play in building the mate-ship that binds a squad together, he is charge of the music on the bus. “I sit at the front of the bus, which maybe helps maybe with how close I am to the bluetooth,” he said with a smile. “If it’s a sprint day I put some rap on, if it’s a day like today I put some heavy dance on.”
Yates has become integral to the UAE Emirates set up in a short time, he has a bond with Pogačar that is clearly rooted in a deep respect. He may not get another shot at a top GC result but he’ll almost certainly be back at the Tour with his team leader in 2024, taking opportunities as they present themselves. And he seems absolutely fine with that.
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