On the opening day of the Critérium du Dauphiné, Adam Yates marked himself as 85 per cent, in terms of his form ahead of the Tour de France. By the end of the week, as he celebrated victory on the final stage to cement second place overall, he must have felt he'd punched his way into the 90's.
Thanks to a solid prologue and Mitchelton-Scott's third place in the stage 3 team time trial, Yates entered the mountain stages well placed. Although he was unable to follow Dan Martin's acceleration on the first summit finish at Lans-en-Vercors, he finished third at Valmorel the following day and then fifth on the penultimate stage to La Rosière, where it was clear that he, Geraint Thomas, Romain Bardet, and Martin were the strongest riders in the race.
On the final stage, which finished with the hideously steep Côte des Amerands and then the only slightly easier Bettex climb, he held firm in the face of repeated attacks from Bardet, the rider just below him on GC, before skipping clear of the Frenchman in the final couple of hundred metres and cruelly passing Cofidis' Dani Navarro in sight of the line.
"We got to the top of that steep one with only four of us left, with Tao [Geoghegan Hart, Team Sky] still pulling, and I knew I had to bide my time and wait," Yates said in his stage winner's press conference.
"The past couple of days I've always been first to initiate and start something, and I've suffered because of it, so I decided to wait until the finale and mind Bardet. He kept attacking me, trying to overtake on GC, but every time after I responded I could get a bit of recovery. In the finale, I had one dig and that's all it took."
Tour de France
Yates denied that this week, or indeed his twin brother Simon's standout performance at the Giro d'Italia, had given him a newfound belief that he can podium in, or even win the Tour de France. He already had that confidence.
"Two years ago I was up there fighting for the whole three weeks," he pointed out, referring to 2016 when he finished fourth and won the white jersey for best young rider.
"I know I can do it, it's just whether I have the legs on the day, every day."
The biggest boost he took from the Giro was not his brother's swashbuckling stage wins in the maglia rosa, but the performance of his team as a whole.
"Simon showed he can be up there with the biggest guys in the world. In a sense, he dominated the mountain stages for the first two weeks. It's not just him, but the whole team that we can take confidence from. The way they were riding and setting it up, we can take that to the Tour and hopefully replicate the same situation," Yates said.
"The first nine days are pretty flat. Obviously, you've got the mountains in the last two weeks but we're going with a super strong team. There are some difficult stages early on. If you've got a strong team with big guys then you can gain a lot of time in the first week. I'm confident in the team and the team believes in me, so I'm not stressed about that."
As for this past week at the Dauphiné, it has provided a confidence boost. As he pointed out "this season has been all about the Tour for me," but it looked for a moment like his plans could be derailed.
At the Volta a Catalunya in late March he fractured his pelvis, leaving him with a slightly less traditional route to July via the Tour of California in May.
"I had a pretty serious injury in Catalunya, but I came back stronger from that," Yates said.
"I had a good training camp in Lake Tahoe and then obviously California went good. Then I had a week or two easy before here, and that helped. When you do a big training block you need a rest before ramping up again, and that's what I've done.
"Now with this race, I've got some good intensity, I just need the final preparation. I think the base level fitness is good, I just need to work on a few things and we should be 100 per cent at the Tour."
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