Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) put on an explosive display in the final meters of the seventh stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné to overtake Dani Navarro (Cofidis) for a dramatic stage win. Navarro, who was a member of the early breakaway and looked to have the stage win in hand until the final meters finished second, while Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) came in third. Geraint Thomas rolled in 19-seconds later to secure one of the biggest stage race victories of his career.
“It’s amazing, it’s incredible, it hasn’t really sunk yet in yet. I didn’t let myself think this far ahead. I was always thinking about the next day or the next climb,” said Thomas after the stage.
“The punctures didn’t really help. I had to chase back on. The guys were just incredible, they rode really well for me. I was just counting down the kilometers on the last climb and knew that I had about 1:20 to lose on Yatesy, so each K that went by I was more confident and happy. In the final 300m, when they started sprinting, I was just done, finally.”
Despite displaying impressive form all week, Thomas was coy when asked what his goals for July entailed, “I’m going to enjoy this win now, rest up, recover and just look forward to July.”
The stage winner, Yates, noted how he has been working on his late-racing timing and how the win reflects well on his Tour de France preparation is on track.
“It was a hard stage, back to back, since yesterday was also really hard. I knew in the finale I just had to wait a little bit. The last few days I’ve been the first one to make the first move, to initiate things. So I wanted to bide my time, and make the kick to the line. In the end, everything worked out.
The Tour de France has been my goal from the start of the season. I had a bad crash in Catalunya which set things back, but I’ve made a pretty good recovery. It shows I’m in pretty good shape, now I’m looking forward to the next training block.”
Adam was also asked if the stage win puts him above his twin brother Simon in the Yates family cycling hierarchy.
“I’m going to say me, but if you look at the stats, he has more wins, so we’ll call it a draw.”
The short but difficult stage, 136km long with 4000 meters of climbing, featured aggressive and dramatic racing, with Thomas suffering two flats, one coming with 42-kilometer remaining with AG2R setting a high tempo on the front. The Briton lost close to a minute and was forced to use the full might of his Sky team to chase back on before the penultimate climb of the day. Thomas was finally able to close the gap with 25-kilometers left to race and wasted no time letting Bardet know how he felt about his team keeping the pace one once he suffered a mechanical misfortune.
Once the race hit the final climb to the finish at Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, the already small peloton was reduced to a select group of contenders. Stage 5 winner and fourth place overall, Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates), was distanced on the final slopes, which led to Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) driving the pace in an attempt to take the Irishman’s high overall placing.
Bardet launched a few unsuccessful attacks meant to distance Thomas and allow the Frenchman to get a stage win at his home race, but Thomas was glued to his rear wheel. The final kilometers looked to be repeating yesterday, with a lone rider from the early breakaway holding off an indecisive chase group, when Bardet threw down one final attack inside the final kilometer that was countered powerfully by Yates, who closed gap to the struggling Navarro and blew straight by the Spaniard to take the stage win. Thomas, knowing he had plenty of time in hand, didn’t attempt to challenge Yates and rode a steady pace to preserve his large overall margin. Both Thomas and Yates will surely come out of the race with plenty of confidence for next month’s Tour de France.