Adam Yates will target stage victories in the final week of the Tour de France after seeing his general classification hopes end in the Alps.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider came to the Tour hoping to build on the fourth place he achieved in 2016 and animate the race in a fashion similar to his twin brother Simon’s performance in the Giro d’Italia in May.
But he cracked over the three Alpine stages this week as what was a bad loss of time on Wednesday became a full-blown crisis by the foot of the Alpe d’Huez on Thursday.
“Obviously it’s disappointing,” the 25-year-old Lancastrian said. “We came here to ride GC but I’ve been suffering a lot in the heat in the past couple of days and it’s been pretty bad with the dehydration.
“I’d just get to the end and I’m just full of salt and dehydrated. It’s one of those things but that’s bike racing at the highest level.”
Yates lost four minutes 42 seconds on Wednesday’s stage 11 to La Rosiere but blew up completely on stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez, finishing almost 29 minutes after Geraint Thomas took the stage honours in the yellow jersey.
— Mitchelton-SCOTT (@MitcheltonSCOTT) July 20, 2018
Yates has now slipped down to 21st in the overall standings, almost half an hour off the top 10.
“The first mountain stage was good but I didn’t hydrate properly after the stage, and it kind of goes into a snowball effect there,” Yates said on Friday.
“Once you mess it up once and go into another mountain stage you’re dehydrated after and then I lost four minutes or something. I was hoping I could recover yesterday but obviously I didn’t. We’ve just got to change the objectives and go for some stages.”
The terrain evens out considerably over the weekend before the race heads into the Pyrenees next week, and that is where Yates will hope to be in the mix for a stage win.
“Anything that’s hard,” he said when asked if he had specific targets in mind. “If I recover well and feel as good as I did in the first mountain stage then I know I’ve got the legs to challenge. But whether I recover we’ll find out.
“It’ll be different, it’s a big change (of mentality) but I’ve done it before and we’ll just try and get stuck in. It’s all you can do.”
After being booed off the podium on Thursday and with teammate Chris Froome spat at on Stage 13, Tour de France leader Geraint Thomas hit back at the doubters on Friday by claiming Team Sky are racing “100 per cent” clean.
Thomas, the former Olympic champion in track cycling, was dramatically booed off the podium after claiming his second successive stage win in the high Alps to reinforce his overall lead on Thursday.
It was a lead he retained on Friday as the race returned to a sprint finish, with Slovakia’s Peter Sagan edging UAE Team Emirates’ rider Alexander Kristoff to claim victory – his third stage win of the 2018 Tour.
It was a bittersweet day for Welshman Thomas and Team Sky who saw their team leader and four-time champion Chris Froome spat at and pushed heavily by one of the many over-enthusiastic fans who line the 13.8km route to the summit.
Team Sky’s dominance of the race has caused the doubters to compare their performances to those of US Postal, the team once led by drugs cheat Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong, who won the Tour a record seven times, saw all his cycling results erased when he finally admitted he had taken performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.
But Thomas, who has a real chance of upstaging Froome to win the yellow jersey if the Kenya-born champion fails to step up in the crucial third week, said the doubters are wrong.
“I 100 per cent believe in myself and the team, that we do everything in the right way, along with the majority of the peloton as well,” said Thomas.
“I can’t say 100 per cent for the peloton, but 99 per cent I’m sure that everyone’s doing it the right way, working hard.
“I think it’s great for the sport. You look at all the anti-doping and all the tests and that type of stuff, and then you look at other sports.
“Cycling’s leading the way by a million miles, so I have every confidence in the sport at the moment.”
At the end of the mainly flat 13th stage, Thomas looked sheepish as he stepped on to the podium to be presented with the yellow jersey.
In comparison to Thursday, there were practically no boos or whistling, incidents that were condemned earlier by race director Christian Prudhomme.
“All I can do is renew calls for calm, for good sense and for serenity with regard to the riders on the Tour de France,” Prudhomme said.
“Don’t whistle and, obviously, don’t touch the riders. Even if it’s just an over-friendly backslap.”
Thomas, who takes a 1min 39sec lead over Froome into Saturday’s undulating stage to Mende, said he is prepared for the flak.
“Obviously, you’d prefer everyone to cheer you, but I can’t affect that,” he said.
“I’d rather be on the podium getting booed than sat on the bus and being cheered.”
The Bora-Hansgrohe team sprint specialist had managed to survive the Alpine stages that that proved to be the end of the race for rivals Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel and Dylan Groenewegen.
Sagan stayed in the hunt from from Bourg d’Oisans to Valence and, having already won two stages on this edition so far, he was quick to capitalise.
It wasn’t easy for though as the Slovakian rider was given extra work to do after Belgian upstart Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) brazenly attacked a leading peloton full of ambitious sprinters 930 metres from the line.
Sagan and his rivals were unperturbed however. They kept at it while Gilbert was caught with 245m remaining.
— Le Tour de France (@LeTour) July 20, 2018
Arnaud Demare’s FDJ team chased down a tame four-man breakaway in the last few kilometres of the race. But Demare came up short.
The Frenchman launched his burst first, but as UAE Team Emirates’ European champion Alexander Kristoff and world champion Sagan came up on his side, he ran out of gas.
Meanwhile, Geraint Thomas of Great Britain, who came out victorious on two of the Alps stages, remained in the leader’s yellow jersey.
Thomas was 1min 39secs ahead of his Sky teammate Chris Froome, while Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb was third overall at 1:50.
The 14th stage on Saturday is far more difficult and is a 188km run from St-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Mende.