There is no love lost between British Team Sky and French AG2R La Mondiale following Sunday’s Critérium du Dauphiné (UCI 2.UWT) finale in Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, France.
While Briton Adam Yates (Michelton-Scott) was besting Spaniard Daniel Navarro (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) at the line (LINK) on the seventh and final stage, a brewing civil war between the British and French teams was sparking in the background.
After spending the better part of a week tussling for general classification, AG2R showed little courtesy to race leader Geraint Thomas (GBR), who found himself scrambling to catch up following an untimely puncture on the descent of the Col des Saisies with 40km to go.
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Despite an unwritten gentleman’s rule in the peloton to not attack the race leader when a mechanical acurres, AG2R dropped the hammer at the front of the field leaving Thomas alone and in need of help to rejoin his surging rivals.
Luckily for the 32-year-old Welshman, his Sky teammates were quick to respond and closed the gap over the next 15km.
“When we finally got back, after a bit of a chase, a few of the guys – [Adam] Yates, Dan Martin and [Bob] Jungels – said the same thing, that they saw it, that someone went on radio and they started sprinting,” said Thomas in the post-race press conference.
“I just went up to them and said thanks for that.”
As for AG2R and Bardet, there should be no hard feelings as no lack of sportsmanship was intended. AG2R was simply racing for the stage win.
“We were in the process of riding, and we weren’t going to stop at the first puncture,” said Bardet, who finished third on GC (+1:47).
“That’s racing. We didn’t accelerate, we maintained the same pace. I explained to Geraint that of course, we’re riding hard to win the stage.”
AG2R team manager backed up Bardet’s accessment.
“We’d already been riding for 10 kilometres,” explained Vincent Lavenu. “We weren’t going to stop and wait for them. That’s only logical.”
Tour de France-bound Thomas, who had words with AG2R leader Roman Bardet once he rejoined the group, also spoke to the 27-year-old Frenchman at the podium, and while he did not discuss what was said, Thomas did admit not all was forgotten.
“I’m not one to hold a grudge but I also certainly won’t forget it.”
Adam Yates confident and motivated for Le Tour
While all the talk has been of Simon Yates’s Giro d’Italia performance in May, twin brother Adam Yates has been quietly chalking up top five general classification results all season.
With a second stage win of the season on Sunday at Dauphiné — his first at Tirreno-Adriatico (2.UWT) in March — the 25-year-old Brit finished second on GC behind countryman Thomas.
Yates was fresh off a fourth overall at the Amgen Tour of California (2.UWT), despite fracturing his pelvis at Catalunya (2.UWT) three weeks before the US start in May. He also recorded a fifth at Tirreno and a fourth back at Valenciana (2.1) prior to the crash in Spain.
The results are the highest since winning last year’s GP Industria & Artigianato (1.1) for the second time in his career for the 2015 Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian (1.UWT) and 2014 Tour of Turkey (then 2.HC) winner.
'We'll call it a draw!' - Adam Yates insists he's as good as brother Simon
“I had a pretty serious injury in Catalunya, but I came back stronger from that,” claimed Yates. ”I had a good training camp in Lake Tahoe and then obviously California went good. Then I had a week or two easy before here, and that helped. When you do a big training block you need a rest before ramping up again, and that’s what I’ve done.
“Now with this race, I’ve got some good intensity, I just need the final preparation. I think the base level fitness is good, I just need to work on a few things and we should be 100 per cent at the Tour.”
For Yates, who won the best young rider classification and finished fourth at Le Tour in 2016 prior to Simon’s youth classification victory and seventh-place result on GC last year, confidence is not an issue when contemplating racing Le Tour de France in July.
“Two years ago I was up there fighting for the whole three weeks,” explained Yates, who is admittedly motivated by his brother’s stellar Giro performance. “I know I can do it, it’s just whether I have the legs on the day, every day.”
“Simon showed he can be up there with the biggest guys in the world. In a sense, he dominated the mountain stages for the first two weeks. It’s not just him, but the whole team that we can take confidence from. The way they were riding and setting it up, we can take that to the Tour and hopefully replicate the same situation.”
Bennett, Van der Poel and Tivani all claim Europe Tour race wins on Sunday …
Meanwhile Bora-Hansgrohe’s default sprinter when Peter Sagan is booked elsewhere, Sam Bennett, once again made most of his opportunities with a bunch kick victory over Mihkel Räim (Israel Cycling Academy) and Szymon Sajnok (CCC-Sprandi Polkowice) in a field of 48 on the finish line of Rund um Köln (1.1) on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Irishman has been in stellar form since his four stage wins at Tour of Turkey last October. More recently, Bennett made his mark with three stage wins and points runner-up at the Giro last month.
“I felt good the entire stage,” said Bennett following the 207.7km one day race in Cologne. “But in the final, my legs didn’t respond how I thought they would. I’m still happy with the overall results in this race. I’m at a physical level I didn’t really expect. I won a beautiful stage, I took fourth overall. Now, I’m going to recover for a few days and then build towards the Tour de France.”
In other one-day action, 2015 cyclo-cross world champion Mathieu van der Poel once again proved he can get the job done on the road with his second win at 200-kilometre Ronde van Limburg (UCI 1.1) in Tongeren, Belgium on Sunday — his second road win of the season.
The 23-year-old Dutchman for Corendon-Circus, who won a stage and the overall at Boucles de la Mayenne (2.1) in France last week, out-kicked the field including Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) and Belgian Tim Merlier (Vérandas Willems-Crelan) to record his ninth career road victory.
Meanwhile in Beograd, Nicolás Tivani (Trevigiani Phonix-Hemus 1896) wrapped up the overall win at Tour de Serbia (2.2) after taking the leader’s jersey following his opening stage win of the three-day race.
The 22-year-old Argentinean beat Belarusian Yauhen Sobal (Minsk Cycling Club) by eight seconds on GC, followed by Moldovan Cristian Raileanu (Torku Sekerspor) at 10 seconds and Stage 3 winner Branislau Samoilau (Minsk Cycling Club), also of Belarus, at 14 seconds.
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