At the start of Tour de France stage 8 in Pau, Adam Yates and his Orica-BikeExchange team were quietly hoping to take the yellow at the finish in Bagnères-des-Luchon, but Chris Froome's attack on the descent to the finish turned the race upside down and snatched the yellow from Yates' young grasp.
He was left with the consolation of the best young rider's white jersey, second place overall at 16 seconds and further confirmation that the Lancastrian is one of the most promising Grand Tour riders in the peloton. Yates leads Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) by 18 seconds in the best young rider classification reserved for riders under 25.
Yates' disappointment was visible on his tired face but he rightly looked on the bright side, keeping his glass full of optimism and ambition after riding so well on a tough day in the Pyrenees.
"It was close but this is the Tour de France – the biggest race in the world, so even to climb on the podium for the white jersey is a great achievement. When Froomey attacked there was not much I could do anyway; I was at the back of the group, so congrats to him." Yates said sportingly.
"At the top of the climb there wasn't much going through my mind when he went, I just knew it was hard. I came here with the objective of stages and so anything in the GC is actually a bonus. We live to fight another day and we'll see what happens."
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Yates started the stage with four stitches in his chin after being brought down by the inflatable banner marking one-kilometre to go at the end of Friday's stage to Lac de Payolle. He was only awarded the white jersey before today's stage due to a delay in race judges deciding to take the time for the stage with three kilometres to go. Yates was seven seconds ahead at that point and so was second overall and ready to take the yellow jersey from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).
Froome spoilt Orica-BikeExchange's party, but Yates managed to be optimistic even about his crash and injuries.
"I think everyone has seen the video of what happened yesterday. I was unlucky but I was also lucky because I only collected a few cuts and bruises. I've got another cut on my chin for my collection, but I've only got four. Last time I crashed on my chin, I had eight, so I'm getting better…," Yates said.
No pressure to target the general classification
Orica-BikeExchange have always said Yates is riding his second Tour de France to win stages rather than target the overall classification. They and Yates are sticking to that plan for now but are also refusing to let go of his place in the classification.
"Today was the first big challenging stage in the Pyrenees. It was the first real test today and I liked what I saw from Adam, who worked hard and showed the kind of condition he is in," directeur sportif Matt White said post-stage.
"All the guys rode well in the beginning on what was a fast start to the stage and then as we hit the climbs Adam really performed very well against the best climbers and Grand Tour riders in the world."
Yates is determined to race the Tour de France without pressure weighing him down.
"The less stress the better, and the team's always said there's no pressure on me," he said.
"There's always pressure from yourself. You always want to perform, but I'm just taking it day by day. If I get up there, then I can be up there and get a result. If I'm not, I'll sit back and wait for another day."
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