Adam Yates and his Mitchelton-Scott team breathed a big sigh of relief at the end of their team time trial ride on stage 3 of the Tour de France. It had been a trying start to race for the Australian team, plagued by crashes on the chaotic opening two days, but they steadied the ship with fourth place in the Cholet TTT.
As directeur sportif Matt White told Cyclingnews: “It’s exactly what we needed.”
The trouble started amid the chaos of the opening day when Yates crashed late on and lost 51 seconds. The 25-year-old was on the deck again 24 hours later and though he didn’t suffer any further losses, Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey also went down heavily in the closing kilometres.
“It’s not ideal, we’ve got some banged up boys in there,” said White, who was correct in his prediction that it would be Mitchelton up there with BMC, Team Sky, and Quick-Step.
“We’re certainly not making excuses, but the effort they put into today considering five of our guys have hit the deck in the last two days, it’s a good one.”
Rock bottom in the teams classification, MItchelton-Scott were the first team to take to the rolling 35.5kkm course, and they burst out of the blocks. They were fastest at the first intermediate checkpoint after 13km but faded ever so slightly compared to the other favourites.
They stopped the clock on 38:55 but they were soon out of the ‘hotseat’ as Sky – second off – came through five seconds quicker. BMC were soon in, too, setting a time nine seconds faster before late-starters Quick-Step bumped Mitchelton down into fourth by two seconds.
“You have to [go out aggressively]. I’m not sure of the splits but I’m pretty sure the other teams weren’t too far behind us. We set off quick, but so did everyone else. It’s what you have to do,” said Yates.
“We have a super strong team here, a lot of big guys, and they work pretty good on these flat courses. Me and Mikel [Nieve] sat on for the first part where it was fast, and then towards the end we started pulling a couple of turns to give the boys a bit of recovery. On a course like that, I don’t push a lot of weight, so it’s pretty difficult to contribute but we did the best we could and the time is pretty good.”
From a general classification perspective it was a good day for the Briton, who suffered minimal losses to Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin, and Richie Porte, while putting time back into all of the other yellow jersey contenders.
He lies 20th overall, one minute off leader Greg Van Avermaet and 57 seconds off Thomas, but nevertheless in the same ballpark as the bulk of GC riders.
“We won’t change anything in the coming days,” Yates added, with more treacherous – if not overtly decisive – stages to come in the north of France.
“It’s the Tour de France, a lot of guys want to be at the front protecting their leaders, there’s a lot of people on the side of the road and a lot of road furniture. Nothing is going to change, we just have to try to stay out of trouble and hope we get lucky.”