Adam Yates returns to the Tour de France as a contender after his experience two years ago but will still be racing as an ‘underdog’, according to Mitchelton-Scott sports director Matt White.
Yates rode the 2016 Tour as a 23-year-old simply seeking to gain experience, but the Bury rider started strong and kept it going all the way to Paris to finish fourth overall, taking the white jersey as the best young rider in the race.
With that under his belt, and after his twin brother Simon’s long spell in the leader’s pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia in May, nobody is overlooking Yates this time around but both he and his team insist they have not changed their approach.
“A couple of years ago it was a little bit different because it was my first time riding (for the general classification),” Yates said. “Now, two years later, I’ve got a lot more experience, I’ve raced the same guys all year, every year.
“You get a feel for them, a feel for yourself and you’re a bit more confident in where you are with your ability. Personally for me nothing really changes, you’re just a little bit more confident.”
If the plucky underdog tag worked last time around, White is keen to keep it attached two years on.
“I still think we are the underdogs,” the Australian said. “We’re not the favourites to win the Tour de France, that’s for sure. It’s still Chris (Froome), it’s still Tom (Dumoulin) and the guys that have won Grand Tours.
“But we’re definitely in the category where we’re coming to challenge. The mentality of the team hasn’t changed from last year or from two years ago.
“We have a clear goal. When you’ve never ridden the Tour de France for the GC, you’re 23, we didn’t come here with a clear goal (two years ago) until it was presented to us. Until you do it once, it’s just called potential.
“There are lots of people walking around with potential. Until you ride a Tour for GC you don’t know if those guys are capable of doing it. Once they’ve done it, you know and that’s the position we’re in now.”
The yellow jersey is likely to be won in the mountains in weeks two and three, but could be lost in a tough opening week, with much focus put on the cobblestone sections late on stage nine to Roubaix on July 15.
Most General Classification hopefuls are eyeing the stage warily, but Yates insisted it held no fear for him.
“I’ve reconned it three times, and to be honest I rode quite a few cobbles as an under-23 and junior,” he said. “It’s not new to me. Obviously it’s a bit different on a big stage, with more expert riders around.
“It’s more about positioning and the winds beforehand, that could be more of a problem. Once we’re actually on the cobbles I’m pretty confident.
“I’ve got a super-strong team around me. Everyone’s a big unit except (Mikel) Nieve and me so I’ve got a big team to lead me into the sectors. We’ll hope for good luck and we can get through clean.”
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