Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) is beginning to treat this Tour de France much like his daily post-stage media duties in the mixed zone. "There are just two days to go and then we're in Paris," he repeated on countless occasions while making his way along the line of cameras and dictaphones, probably also counting down the number soundbites to be supplied before shower, dinner, and TV.
The 23-year-old, riding only his second Tour de France, has defied expectations throughout this race and is now third overall with – as he made abundantly clear – only two days to go before the race culminates on the Champs Elysées.
He said on the second rest-day on Tuesday that he is in bonus territory – whatever happens next this Tour has been a huge success – but he has survived two of the four concluding Alpine tests and a podium place, nowhere near his radar at the Grand Départ, is inching ever closer.
Though he confidently led home the fragmented GC group behind Richie Porte and Chris Froome on yesterday's summit finish at the Emosson dam, many of those behind Yates gained ground on Thursday's 17km time trial in Megève.
"Today wasn't great but also wasn't bad," was Yates' assessment of his performance on the uphill course, not a true mountain test but nevertheless containing one steep climb.
"I was feeling strong at the first time check but then I faded, and was pedalling squares towards the end. But that's to be expect third week of the Tour de France and only my second attempt at the Tour, so we can be satisfied."
Although Yates put two seconds into the man above him on GC, Bauke Mollema, he ceded 13 seconds to fourth-placed Nairo Quintana, 41 Romain Bardet 41, and 50 to and Richie Porte.
As such, he now has just a 21-second buffer over Quintana, but it's a flying Richie Porte at 44 seconds who is emerging as the greatest threat.
"In my opinion Richie Porte is the most dangerous – he looks like the strongest climber in this race other than Froome," said Yates. "Everyone's dangerous, everyone is tired in the third week, so anything can happen."
Whatever does happen, Yates knows he is in for a big scrap on tomorrow's summit finish at Saint Gervais-Mont Blanc, and again on the gruelling penultimate stage, which concludes with the climb of the Col de Joux Plane and the descent into Morzine.
"There are about five guys looking for those two spots so it'll be a big battle," he said.
"Everyone is tired – not just me. We have two more mountain stages to go and I'll just try not to lose any more time. We only have two days ahead of us and then we're in Paris. We'll just fight for every second and hopefully I'm still here by Paris."
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