With around 100km to go on stage 1 of the Tour de France a smiling Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) could be seen chatting to his former teammate Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) in the peloton. The pace was relaxed, the sun was out, and the Tour was finally underway. What was there to worry about?
A few hours later, however, and Yates was left pondering just how quickly a Tour can change having lost 51 seconds to the vast majority of his GC rivals. The Mitchelton-Scott rider was involved in a fall with several of his teammates – including Jack Bauer and Mat Hayman – in the final 20km, and despite a late chase was unable to close the gap. The British climber came over the line in 81st place, and alongside Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Chris Froome (Team Sky), the latter having suffered from his own fall inside the final five kilometres.
Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) leads the race after taking his maiden Tour de France stage but Yates will be focused only on his performance. A loss of 51 seconds does not end Yates' overall hopes this July, but it certainly means that he and his team cannot afford to ship further time or make mistakes.
"It doesn't change anything for the first nine days, we've just got to stay aware and hope for a bit more luck," a resolute Matt White told Cyclingnews and a crew from Norwegian television.
"It was a pretty uneventful, boring stage but obviously pretty nervous for the guys all day and then we got caught in the crash, didn't quite make it to the final there. It was going fast in the final, we had three guys involved in the crash. They couldn't get back on and they lost some time. It's only a minor cuts and abrasions so that's the positive side of it."
Mitchelton rallied in the finale on stage 1 to help Yates regain contact but when a French television crews stopped to film Froome, who crashed after Yates, the chase group lost part of their momentum. At least Yates can rely on a team that look more than solid for this first week. Crashes can affect anyone in the bunch and the Australian team will be looking to keep out of the headlines on stage 2 before regaining a chunk of Yates' deficit on the stage 3 time trial around Cholet.
"It's just a lot of stress for the guys, it's still bike racing but you talk to the guys about the stress of the first week and it's certainly not getting any smaller," White added.
Tonight, Yates must lick his wounds and simply hope that his bad luck in this year’s Tour de France is over. The Tour, after all, can change in a second.