At the end of stage 3, around the back of the Mitchelton-Scott team bus, Adam Yates quietly warmed down on the rollers. Deep in thought, his mind was already focused on the stage 4 time trial and what he labelled as the pivotal stage in this year's Critérium du Dauphiné before the final days in the mountains.
Twenty-four hours later and Yates' focus was rewarded as he strode into the media centre in Roanne with a fresh yellow jersey on his shoulders. He may have finished sixth on the stage – a respectable performance in itself – but he had also done enough to wrestle the race lead from Dylan Teuns. A deeper analysis only made Yates' ride look even more impressive, with time gained on Richie Porte, Jakob Fuglsang, Thibaut Pinot and a number of pure time triallists. But for Chris Froome's shocking leg break in recon and Wout Van Aert's surprise stage win, Yates was the story of the day.
"I knew that on a course like this I could do a good time but to take the leader's jersey was a bit of a surprise," he admitted as he sat down to greet the press.
"Everyone tells me how bad I am at time trialling, they do the same with my brother so it feels good to take the lead in a TT."
Yates has a slender lead over Teuns and Tejay van Garderen but Fuglsang and a resurgent Steven Kruijswijk are within seven and 24 seconds respectively. French hope Pinot is just a further second down, while Nairo Quintana is poised at 40 seconds. This race is far from settled and Yates is well aware that although the time trial was important in terms of laying down a marker both here and for the Tour de France, the Dauphiné is far from over.
"It's hard to say if I'm the favourite yet. We've not had a proper mountain stage. Stage 2 was really hard and selective but it wasn't a true mountain stage. I'm in half-decent condition and I said before, everyone is in the same boat and wants to test themselves and see where they are before the Tour and I'll do the same. Tomorrow is a sprint stage so hopefully, the sprinters will help us control things. Then we're into the real mountains and we can have the second real battle."
Yates' improvements in time trialling, he stated, are down to time spent in the wind tunnel. For a rider who finished second in the Dauphiné last year and who has clearly improved against the clock, the signs for the next few days and the Tour de France are certainly encouraging.
"It's nothing major but when you're going at these kinds of speeds little things make big differences. I did the same power I would normally do but I just went a little bit quicker. In reality, in a course like this and of this length I might have gained about 20 to 30 seconds. That's not massive gains but all of a sudden you climb up the rankings. I'm happy with the results."
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