All riders must go through a bad day at the Tour de France; whether it's bad luck or bad legs, it's almost impossible to make it through three weeks of racing without it coming to get you. For Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) it was bad luck that knocked him for six on the penultimate mountain stage.
A badly timed mechanical problem with his gears led to a bike change and forced him to use up vital energy to re-join the main group. At this stage of the Tour de France, riders are scraping the barrel for their last reserves, and they'll pay for using up any too early in the day. Yates found that out on the final climb of stage 19 to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc when he gave away 30 seconds to his closest rival and slipped off the podium.
"It was a bit of a tough one. It was all good until I had to change bikes," he said in the race's mixed zone, the white jersey still firmly on his shoulders. "I had a mechanical; I was having a couple of issues with my gears. It happened at a critical moment where you had to be in the front, and you had to be in a good position.
"I spent a lot of energy getting back to the front and obviously we had the big climb, the longest climb of the day straight afterwards. Maybe it was energy that I could have used in the final to not lose these seconds, but it is what it is."
Throughout this Tour de France, Yates has been calm and collected no matter what position he finds himself in. Through the flamme rouge barrier collapsing on him on stage 7 to having the yellow jersey given to him and taken away almost in the same heartbeat a week later, Yates takes it all in his stride. He lets for a brief moment of emotion, noting his frustration at taking a backwards step in the overall classification, before trying to look on the bright side.
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"Maybe I am a little disappointed but at the end of the day I'm still in a good situation," he said. "This is the Tour de France; this is the first bad day that I've had in the Tour de France so far. This is just the beginning; I'm still 23. It's only my second Tour de France so we can still be satisfied with fourth."
Yates has every right to be positive, not just because fourth on your second Tour de France is a massive achievement, but he is still within touching distance of the podium. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is only 19 seconds ahead of him in third place with another tough day in the mountains to come. Taking time out of Quintana is no insignificant task, the Colombian looked stronger than in recent days on Mont Blanc, but Yates is not letting it slip from his grasp that easily.
"Tomorrow isn't a mountaintop finish it's a descent finish, so we'll see what happens. I'm pretty tired now, not just me but everyone so it's just one more day to fight," he said.
"We don't give up, but it's not too easy after three weeks of racing hard. This is the Tour de France, it's the hardest race in the world. It's only my second attempt. I wasn't supposed to ride GC in the first place. We're fourth with one day to go so we can be satisfied with that no matter what we get tomorrow."
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