The Mitchelton-Scott rider succumbed to the inevitable Sunday, and ceded the yellow jersey to an ever more powerful Jumbo-Visma.
“I did my best. I knew coming into the race I wasn’t 100 percent, and I did everything I could to hang on,” Yates said. “I think we can be proud of what we did. Now we can freshen up on the rest day, and go after some stages.”
The 28-year-old started Sunday’s second of two Pyrénéan stages with a slender three-second lead over Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). Yates held on in Saturday’s melee, but Sunday proved a mountain too far.
The attacks came midway up the first-category Marie Blanque, with eventual stage-winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Emirates) turning the screws to fracture the GC group. Yates scrapped his way back, but more surges on the steep side of the climb saw him go out the back for good.
Yates came in with a group 54 seconds back from a leading quintet, and slipped from first to eighth, now 1:02 behind Roglic.
“It’s a big honor riding yellow. It was good fun while it lasted,” Yates said. “I wasn’t thinking about anything, just trying to follow the wheel. I did the best I could, and it wasn’t good enough.”
Yates’ matter-of-fact attitude defies his impressive opening to the Tour. He came to the Tour in stage-hunter mode, and dashed to third in the second stage in Nice. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) took yellow, and Yates slotted into second thanks to time bonuses. When the Frenchman was slapped with a time penalty for an illegal late feed in stage 5, Yates became the Tour’s “accidental” leader.
Surprised to be in yellow, the team rallied and changed tack. It came to the Tour to win stages. Finding itself in the leader’s jersey, the team backed Yates who defended it for three stages.
“It was pretty clear that Jumbo-Visma wanted to win the stage and take the jersey today,” said sport director Matt White. “They were all over everything, with a clear, clear objective to take the jersey.”
With a few transition stages looming after Monday’s race day, Yates and Co. will switch back into stage-hunting mode later next week.
“We came into this race with the objective of going hard in the first week to look for stages, and that turned into the yellow jersey,” White said. “We held it for a few days, now we can go back to the original plan to go back to targeting stages.”
The yellow jersey was certainly a nice bonus while it lasted.