Adam Yates maintains his edge as Victor Lafay makes it a special day for Cofidis

By Sports Desk July 02, 2023

Victor Lafay used a late attack to end a 15-year wait for the Cofidis team to celebrate a Tour de France stage victory as Adam Yates retained the yellow jersey in San Sebastian.

Having watched pre-stage favourite Wout Van Aert use up energy shutting down late attacks from Tom Pidcock and Mattias Skjelmose on the run into town, Lafay waited for the flamme rouge to launch his own move, and then held off the chasing pack at the line as Van Aert slammed his handlebars in frustration.

Adam Yates was in a lead group reduced to just 24 riders at the end of the longest stage of this year’s Tour, retaining yellow as his team-mate Tadej Pogacar used bonus seconds to move up to second, level on time with Simon Yates six seconds back.

Pogacar had come across the line third on the stage, just ahead of Pidcock and Pello Bilbao.

For Cofidis, it is a first stage win since Sylvain Chavanel triumphed in Montlucon in 2008.

“In the last metres, I looked down at my computer, I saw 500 metres (to go), 400 metres,” said 27-year-old Frenchman Lafay, who added to his Giro d’Italia stage win from 2021. “I said to myself I will inevitably be caught at 50 metres. It’s sick.”

The UAE Team Emirates squad of Adam Yates and Pogacar did a huge amount of work almost all day to control a three-man breakaway, with the peloton needing to negotiate some changeable weather that made stretches of this 209-kilometre route through the rolling terrain of the Basque Country treacherous.

Other teams, not least the Jumbo-Visma squad of Vingegaard and Van Aert, tried to come to the fore at the foot of the Jaizkibel but it was UAE’s Rafal Majka who put in a huge turn to split the peloton to pieces as they navigated the narrow path left by fans towards the summit.

Pogacar burst forward to take the bonus seconds ahead of Vingegaard and Simon Yates at the top of the climb and briefly looked like he might try to attack on the descent with defending champion and chief rival Jonas Vingegaard on his wheel, but soon sat up with Vingegaard unwilling to help.

Adam Yates will now look to hold on to yellow until at least the Pyrenees, with two flat days coming up next and attention turning to the sprinters – not least Mark Cavendish as he seeks a record 35th career Tour stage win.

“It was a really hectic day, a lot of stress in the bunch,” 30-year-old Yates said. “Wet roads, roundabouts, road furniture, but we made it through with a little bit of bad luck as Matteo (Trentin) crashed on a corner.

“But for us it was a good race, we controlled it all day. Nobody wanted to help us. Then in the final we tried to set it up for Tadej to get the bonus seconds so we did a good job…

“If Tadej had won the bonuses and the stage he could have (taken yellow) but we kept it as a team so it’s job done.

“For sure we will have to control some more days. It looks easier on the paper but the Tour de France every day is super hard, super technical, so it’s not easy to just roll to the finish and keep yellow. We’ll keep on our toes and see what happens.”

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