The 200-odd kilometres and going on six hours in the saddle could hardly be described as a rest day, but Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) was glad of the chance to catch his breath, figuratively at least, as the Tour de France peloton ambled into a block headwind for much of the haul north from Montélimar to Villars-les-Dombes.
Sandwiched between Friday's demanding time trial and Sunday's deceptively tough mountain leg over the Grand Colombier to Culoz, stage 14 was an understandably slow-burning affair, and Yates rolled home safely in the main peloton to remain in third place overall at day's end.
"It was a pretty easy day," Yates said afterwards. "When it's a block headwind, there's not many people who want to go in the breakaway. To be honest, it's a much-needed break after yesterday's time trial. Even if you ride an easy time trial it's never easy. It was much-needed, like I said, so we're looking forward to mountains tomorrow."
Yates was one of the few overall contenders to emerge in credit from Friday's demanding time trial in the Ardèche. While Chris Froome (Sky) landed what already felt a decisive blow in the tussle for overall victory, Yates exceeded expectations in the 37.5-kilometre test to remain very much in the hunt for a podium place, even if he now trails his fellow countryman by 2:45.
Prior to the time trial, Yates had downplayed expectations by insisting that he has struggled in that particular discipline during his short career to date. In Villars-Les-Dombes on Saturday, he expressed a degree of surprise at how he had fared.
"It's probably the longest time trial I've done. Nothing really changed in terms of power and the way I went into it. I had good legs on the day, and I just put it all on the line," he said. "There's not much you can do except do your max and that's what I did yesterday."
Yates' assurance on the road to this point has been such that were he not wearing the white jersey of best young rider, it would be easy to forget that he is still only 23 years of age. That said, Orica-BikeExchange felt sufficiently confident in his powers of endurance to thrust him into his first Grand Tour as a raw neo-professional at the 2014 Vuelta a España, while he lined out for his Tour debut a year ago.
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On neither occasion, however, did Yates race for the general classification, reaching Santiago di Compostela and Paris in 82nd and 50th place, respectively. In that regard, entering the final week of the Tour with a hold on a podium place is uncharted terrain for the Briton, but for all that he played down his chances after Friday's time trial, he betrays few signs of trepidation.
"Every time we go into the mountains, it's always an opportunity," Yates said of Sunday's tough stage through the Ain department, which sees the peloton tackle the Grand Colombier and the Lacets du Grand Colombier ahead of the drop to the finish.
Thus far, Yates has dosed his efforts smartly, even when the maillot jaune lay tantalisingly within his grasp in the Pyrenees, preferring to unleash his accelerations as close to the finish line as possible. He suggested he would plot a similar course in the Alps.
"Personally I believe it's going to be a breakaway stage tomorrow. The usual big group of 20 or 30 riders going away. I'm not sure if I'll be able to fight for victory but if I have good legs, I'll try to get away and pick up some seconds. My form is good. There's no reason for that to change."
Tour de France stage 14 video highlights
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