It was a relatively sedate day at the Tour de France for Stage 6. Despite the presence of Col de la Lusette, a category 1 climb, in the final followed by a rise to the finish line, a pitched climbing battle failed to eventuate.
It was a pleasant introduction to the prestigious jersey for Yates, who didn't have to exert himself in defence of yellow.
"It was nice," said Yates, "I think we controlled quite well, it was a strong breakaway and there were a lot of guys that really wanted to go in there today.
"It was pretty much flat all the way into the climbs, so it was quite hard to control, but I think we did a good job and in the end, I still had Mikel and Esteban in the final, so all in all, a good day."
Yates was asked why there was little action when it came to the general classification contenders on a day that looked on paper at least as a difficult one. The most that happened was a small attack by previous race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in the final few hundred metres, netting the Frenchman a single second on the general classification.
"I think just the way the break already had the gap and all the bonuses were already taken, there wasn’t really much to gain from anybody attacking," said Yates of the relative calm of the peloton. "Also, the final climb wasn’t super steep, so it takes a lot of effort to get a few seconds, so everyone just kept their energy and saved it for a later day.
Alaphilippe's sensational demotion from the overall lead of the race on the previous stage had set the cycling world talking, but Yates and the Australian squad looked to put the controversy behind them.
"Like I said yesterday, it was a strange situation," said Yates, "but I think we rode well today and hopefully we did the jersey proud.
"I still want to win a stage, that’s what we came here to do, 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."
Yates looks to have an extended stint in yellow on the cards, with Stage 8 in the Pyrenees the next major test.
"Tomorrow’s a sprint stage and then we’ve got two really hard stages," said Yates. "These two stages I actually know quite a lot of the climbs, so it’s going to be really tough, but like I said before, we’ve got a super strong team here, not just for the flats but for the climbing stages, so I’m looking forward to it."
The Tour de France continues with the 168km seventh stage from Millau to Lavaur which should be one for the sprinters but might entice the opportunists.
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