Tour de France 2020

Tour de France route director: ‘Yates could hold yellow jersey one more week’

Gouvenou believes that if the Brit survives the Pyrénées, he's in with a chance at holding lead until stage 13.

Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) silenced those doubting the credibility of his Tour de France yellow jersey Thursday by finishing safely in the bunch with his GC rivals after the race’s sixth stage. And the Brit may hang on to yellow some time yet – at least that’s what race director and route designer Thierry Gouvenou believes.

“If Yates can get past the Pyrénées, he can hold it until at least Puy Marie [Stage 13, next Friday],” the ASO official said Thursday.

Having moved into the GC lead Wednesday after Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was dished a 20-second penalty, Yates successfully came through Thursday’s stage after an uneventful day in the GC battle as Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma hit a stalemate.

Stage 7’s likely sprint finish should prove straightforward for 28-year-old Yates, gifting him another day in the Maillot Jaune – provided threats of strong crosswinds whipping the race to life fail to materialize.

After that, the race heads into the Pyrénées, and prime hunting-ground for Yates. With both stages featuring a series of steep mountain passes before a descent to the line, the weekend could provide the Brit the opportunity to do what he and his Mitchelton-Scott team came to this year’s Tour de France to do – win stages.

When asked if he was planning to go on the offensive in the mountains of stage 8 and 9, Yates was confident in his answer.

“Yeah, why not? Even though I’m sitting in the yellow jersey, I want to win a stage,” Yates said. “We came here to win stages. Once we get to the high mountains hopefully we can do something.”

Race director Gouvenou told AFP he believed the days in the Pyrénées could see cagey racing among the GC bunch, opening the door for Yates to ride clear.

“In the Pyrénées there are two downhill finishes,” he said. “We’ll see what comes of that, but I believe the peloton will take that with a certain caution.”

Should Yates come through the weekend’s mountains tests with his yellow jersey intact, he’s afforded a rest day Monday, two sprinter stages, and then a hilly stage Thursday as the race heads toward the Massif Central. Friday will prove a challenging day out as the peloton takes on the attritional terrain of the French massif, with stage 13 to Puy Mary featuring 4,400m climbing scattered through an endlessly bumpy parcours. And for Gouvenou, that’s the point at which Yates’ GC lead may come undone.

As Yates said Thursday, he’s now harboring two equally bold hopes: of holding on to his classification lead, currently 3 seconds ahead of Primož Roglič, as well as poaching for a stage win.

“I still want to win a stage, that’s what we came here to do,” he said. But it’s pretty hard to throw away time when you’re in the lead, so I think for now we’ll just play it day-by-day and see what happens.”

Stage 8 and 9’s shark-tooth Pyrénéan parcours could offer Yates the opportunity to fulfill both his team’s original plan and keep alive a yellow jersey dream.

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