Van Avermaet set to keep Tour yellow jersey until Tuesday evening

BMC's Belgian race leader hopes to still hold maillot jaune after cobbles on Sunday

All being well, BMC Racing's Greg Van Avermaet, who leads the 2018 Tour de France by six seconds over Team Sky's Geraint Thomas, should keep his yellow jersey until at least the end of Tuesday's stage 10, when the race heads into the Alps.

Van Avermaet managed to increase his lead over second-placed Thomas from three seconds to six seconds on Friday's seventh stage from Fougères to Chartres after taking the three-second time bonus available at the intermediate sprint with 30km to go on the stage.

Although it remains a slender advantage, and while Thomas has proven in the past that he's capable of riding the cobbles with the best of them, Van Avermaet won the famous cobbled Classic Paris-Roubaix in 2017, and therefore should be at the pointy end of affairs on stage 9 on Sunday, which takes in a number of sectors of pavé used by Paris-Roubaix.

That's assuming Van Avermaet isn't called into service for BMC team leader and Tour contender Richie Porte on the cobbles, should anything drastic happen early on. Despite leading the Tour de France, the Belgian wouldn't hesitate to help Porte if the Australian needed his assistance.

"It was a pretty calm day [on stage 7 on Friday], but you still had to be focused as guys tried twice to force echelons and that made it kind of nervous. But, overall, it was a good day," Van Avermaet said on the BMC team website.

"It was a long day, and it was a little bit more relaxed, but with a really fast final. I’m happy that I could take those three extra seconds in the bonus sprint," he continued. "It was an open sprint with nobody in front, so it was good to give it a try and take some seconds to make sure I am safe for the next stage.

"Now, I can probably keep the jersey to Roubaix, and overall it's been a nice week so far," he said. "I feel like I can focus on Sunday and try to be up there, and we'll see what happens."

If Van Avermaet does still hold the yellow jersey on Sunday evening in Roubaix, then he'll keep it for Monday's rest day, and then will wear it on Tuesday's 10th stage from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand – the Tour's first day in the mountains, which could well then end Van Avermaet's spell in yellow as Porte and the other GC contenders come to the fore.

But with Sunday's 'Roubaix stage' to tackle first, BMC won't be the only team hoping for another quiet day on Saturday's eighth stage between Dreux and Amiens.

"The Tour has been going well for us so far," BMC directeur sportif Fabio Baldato confirmed. "We're at the end of the first week, and having the yellow jersey keeps our motivation.

"Up until now, we haven't spent too much energy and, even better, we have't had to spend too much energy keeping Richie up at the front. The stage into Roubaix on Sunday is the last technical point in the first part of the race."


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