The writing was on the wall for Adam Yates and his Mitchelton-Scott team when the British climber was unceremoniously dropped on the first major ascent of the day – the Col du Soulour – on stage 14 of the Tour de France on Saturday. Although he rallied with the help of his team and came back before the foot of the Tourmalet, the same scenario unfolded on the lower slopes before Yates eventually crossed the line 6:42 down on stage winner Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
As a result, Yates's hopes of a podium place are over, with the 27-year-old now down in 26th place overall and over ten minutes down on race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
"It wasn't the best day, that's for sure. Everyone comes out of a time trial [Friday's stage 13] differently, and usually I come out pretty well, but today was a different story," he told reporters at the finish.
"I've got no excuses, really," he continued. "I just didn't have the legs on the day, and that's how it goes sometimes. I've been going well all season, and maybe today it caught up with me, but that's bike racing, I guess. More than anything, I'm just sorry to the guys who have kept me out the wind and looked after me for the past two weeks. They've sacrificed their own chances to help me out and, in the end, it didn't come off. Having said all that, tomorrow is another day and we'll continuing fighting like it's day one."
Coming into the mountains, Yates was relatively well placed on the GC. His time trial was poorer than expected, but he survived the opening-week battles and arrived at his favourite terrain in contention. The team was confident, too, having won two stages earlier in the race courtesy of Simon Yates and Daryl Impey. However after Adam Yates's time losses, the team have been forced to drop their hopes of a GC challenge, with the focus firmly turning towards stage-hunting.
"It's disappointing. We came here with high ambitions for the GC, and now the dream is over. That's bike racing," head sports director Matt White told Cyclingnews from the team's hotel on Saturday evening.
"Adam didn't have good feelings on the first climb of the day, and was dropped there. He came back with the help of Jack Haig and Simon. Sometimes you can be dropped at the start but come back later. It's not an ideal situation, but they came back on the descent. At that point, you just hope that your rider can recover, but that just didn't happen. The team has done an incredible job of protecting him."
Yates's capitulation in the Tour de France mountains is reminiscent of last year, when he came to the race hoping to challenge but cracked in the race's first real mountains. For White, now is too soon to analyse what might have gone wrong leading towards Saturday's struggles on the Tourmalet.
"There's nothing that we can put it down to at the moment. And now isn't the time to do that. There's a time and a place, but for now we just have to refocus because it's 100 per cent about stage wins. We've had a great Tour so far, but we're not going to rest on our laurels," he said.