MONTAUBAN, France (AFP) — Greg Van Avermaet said he will “fight for every second” to keep hold of the yellow jersey at the Tour de France on Friday.
The 31-year-old Belgian enjoyed his first ever day in the race leader’s jersey at the Grand Boucle and, as the sixth stage from Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban finished in a mass sprint, he will keep the honor for another day.
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“It was a beautiful day for me, I couldn’t imagine a better day — there was beautiful weather, no wind, not too many climbs, no stress in the peloton,” said Van Avermaet, who won Wednesday’s stage 5 following a breakaway to ride into yellow.
“I’m really happy with a day like this, also for recovery for tomorrow. It was a hard day yesterday so I needed a day like this.”
But the Tour reaches the Pyrénées and the high mountains on Friday, and there is the first category 1 Col d’Aspin to crest before a 7km charge down to the Lac de Payolle finish.
The mountain is 12km long with an average gradient of 6.5 percent and Van Avermaet is likely to be dropped by the overall contenders.
Yet he’s vowed to give his all to stay in front. “Keeping the yellow jersey will be hard tomorrow, but I will try — if you’re in yellow you have to fight for it in every second,” said the cobbled classics specialist, who broke his collarbone in a crash at the Tour of Flanders in April.
“The approach is easy but we’ll see how far I can go on a climb like this,” he said. “Five minutes is a lot, but when the climbers really go, it’s not much! I hope to keep it, but I’m not sure.”
After spending one day in yellow, Van Avermaet admitted he didn’t envy the likes of reigning champion Chris Froome in terms of the media commitments the honor brings. “This is how Froome feels every day; it’s really hard! It’s nice for me for one day or two days, but if you have to do it every day, it uses a lot of energy.
“In the Tour you have to always be concentrating. I’ve got a lot of respect for this kind of guy, it’s not easy to handle this every day.
“I can imagine also that [Froome] tries to do less interviews!”