The Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider launched his solo effort on the Col d'Èze, the final classified climb of this year's race. While his advantage sometimes ticked up past 25 seconds, he was held in check by Primož Roglič and Wout van Aert of Jumbo-Visma, and remained second overall.
"I'm not going to win a sprint against Van Aert or Roglič, so I had to try something, and I wasn't feeling great either," the Briton said. "I wasn't confident to make an advantage, but if you don't try then you never know. I tried, and there was no real tactics, I just had luck."
Yates trailed Roglič by 47 seconds going into the day, and ended just 29 seconds behind the Slovenian. However, he maintained that he was only thinking about winning the stage in Nice.
"I don't know, I was not think about the GC today," he said. "I was just thinking about the stage win. Of course it crossed my mind once the gap really started to go out, but today I was all in for the stage win and that was it."
It is Yates' fourth stage win at Paris-Nice, but his first since 2019. It caps a week off which saw him deliver an impressive time trial on stage four. It is his best stage race result since winning the Tour of the Alps in April last year, and his first WorldTour stage race win since Tirreno-Adriatico in 2020.
However, he urged people to not read "too much" into his performance over eight days this week.
"The Giro [d'Italia] is still a long way away, at least as far as I'm concerned," Yates said. "Of course I'm very happy with my performance this week, it's been good. I do Catalunya next as well, which is not far away, so hopefully another good performance there.
"I think I'm really happy with the stage win, but the time trial was the best one I've done for a long time, so of course I'm very happy with that performance there."
After Saturday's stage to the Col de Turini, Yates had said that Roglič was hardly breathing while the others were panting on the mountain pass.
However, he argued that the final stage suited him a lot more, and that he also drew on experience to bring home the win.
"Shorter climbs, much more explosive," he said. "Yesterday I think it took us maybe 40 minutes to do the final climb, more of an aerobic effort. Obviously the conditions as well. I don't like racing in the rain or the cold but I had a lot of clothes on today. Maybe after the long descent into Nice that's where I gained a little bit maybe, I kept a lot of clothes on.
"I did that with a bit of experience, because I've raced this circuit in the rain before and frozen up, in 2018 and not had the legs, so maybe that's where the difference was."
Yates might not have won the yellow jersey, but he proved that he is in very good form ahead of a spring in which he hopes to pull on the pink jersey instead.
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