The British rider was unable to follow when Daniel Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) attacked inside the final kilometre but by finishing eight on the stage, and four seconds ahead of Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep), he moved within six seconds of the best young rider’s white jersey. With one stage remaining he is locked in a three-way battle for the jersey with the Frenchman and the ever-improving Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) who is 39 seconds off the white jersey.
At the finish Yates was initially asked if the white jersey would be his main ambition for the final stage.
“We’ll see, I didn’t really try for it today, I was just staying with Froome, Richie and those guys, but we’ll see. Especially after today, we all suffered today. We did something like 4,500m of climbing in 145km, which was maybe about 2000m more climbing than yesterday. Sunday’s stage is a little bit shorter which suits me better, but again, we’ll see what happens.”
Yates played down his ambitions coming into the race but his opening prologue time in Les Gets was a clear indication that he was on song. He stayed out of trouble during the sprint and intermediate stages and has come into his element as the race has entered the mountains. With the Tour de France just a few weeks away he looks on course to make Orica-GreenEdge’s selection and shine over the three weeks in July.
“When I first started this I came here with no goals for the GC or anything, so we’re taking it day by day and so far it’s been great and if we can just get a stage win, that’s more important than anything,” he said.
“We’ll give it one last shot on Sunday but if not, the main goal is the Tour de France. We’ve come here and given a good shot at trying something and getting that intensity back.”
On Saturday Yates had to remain calm when Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) took off several times on the Col de la Madeleine with 70 kilometers to go. The Spaniard’s accelerations threatened to blow the race apart but he was brought back by Froome’s Team Sky squad. Daryl Impey and Jack Haig hung with Yates for as long as they could with the former lasting until the final climb.
“It was just mainly Contador. He was attacking from 40km in on Col de Madeleine and when a guy like Contador attacks that climb, it blows the race to pieces. So you just have to hang on and hope it slows down, but I did the best I could today and that’s all there is to it.”
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