Yates attacked on the penultimate climb of the Col du Pillon and opened up a sizable gap on his rivals before the final ascent to Leysin. The Orica rider was joined by Richie Porte (BMC Racing), who attacked from the bunch at the foot of the last climb, and the pair came to the line before Yates’ quicker turn of speed netted him the lead. Yates heads into Sunday’s 18.3km time trial around Laussane with a 19 second lead over Porte.
“I think tomorrow depends how my legs are responding after today. I would prefer more time, of course. The beginning of the time trial is difficult and the descent is quite technical. It might be okay but it might depend on how my legs feel at the start of the time trial. It could be difficult but I’ll give it the maximum. I’ll take some risk because it’s not very often that I arrive in the final time trial in the leader’s jersey. We’ll see. Nineteen seconds isn’t a lot to a guy like Richie.”
Yates beat Porte in the opening prologue, but the wet conditions saw the BMC Racing leader hold back – a wise move in hindsight after his teammate Tejay van Garderen hit the deck. The Australian’s response on the final climb of stage 4 and the way in which he cut though Yates’ 45-second advantage was highly impressive, and he will be quietly confident of taking the jersey.
For Yates, though, the stage win was another significant moment in what is already turning into a highly successful career. This season he has won a stage in Paris-Nice and the GP Miguel Indurain, while his consistency in stage racing is improving as the Tour de France appears on the horizon. His attack to win stage 4 was set up by his teammates, who strung out a weary bunch before Yates accelerated away. It was a long distance move reminiscent of his stage win in Paris-Nice.
“From the moment I attacked it was very difficult. There was a lot of wind and we caught the break but they were very tired from their work. Me and Emanuel Buchmann worked but the UAE rider in the break wasn’t able to pull. Then when we arrived at the final climb I made a hard pace just to test the legs. I could hear on the radio that Richie was coming very quickly. I took it easy because if he caught me and I was already empty then it would have been hard to win or stay with him.”
When Porte made the catch the pair exchanged a few words before Yates swung onto the Australian’s rear wheel. Porte made several digs before the line – well aware that Yates had the better sprint – but the British rider hung on and wound up his winning sprint with the line in sight.
“When he caught us he made a difficult pace straight away but I managed to stay there until the climb levelled off. I wanted to win the stage so I got him to the front with around 1km to go. He managed to make a strong pace but I just had enough to beat him at the finish.”