IT’S not the way any cyclist wants to take over the Tour de France’s yellow jersey but its in the hands of the Australian team now, writes JOHN TREVORROW:
AUSTRALIAN team Mitchelton Scott has taken over the coveted yellow jersey in controversial circumstances after stage 5 of the Tour de France.
Englishman Adam Yates became the new race leader after commissaires handed down a 20 second time penalty to the darling of France Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) for an illegal feed in the final 20km of the stage to Privas.
Television replays showed Alaphilippe taking a bidon from a Deceuninck-QuickStep soigneur with 17 km to go.
UCI regulations state that ‘unauthorised feeding’ in the final 20km of a stage carries both a 200CHF fine and a 20-second time penalty per offence. Alaphilippe will therefore drop down to 16th place on the general classification.
I can understand how Alaphilippe made the mistake. He would have told his team on race radio that he needed a bidon and they would have told him roughly where the official would be. But it beggars belief that Deceuninck-Quickstep team would make that mistake.
Team directeur sportif Tom Steels said that of course he was aware of the 20km rule, but said that in the area just before the 20 km to go point the riders were descending and there was no place to safely pass over a bottle.Embed from Getty Images
“It’s a pity to lose yellow like this. We know about the 20-kilometre rule,” he said after the stage. “It was quite dangerous at 70kph. This was the first flat part to get in position for the climb. It was the only spot we could still give a bottle,” Steels said.
Deceuninck-Quickstep owner Patrick Lefevere was furious. “It’s very hard but there is a rule. And if we apply it severely to others, then it’s the same for us,” Lefevere said.
The most expensive bottle of wine was sold last year for $558,000 US for a French Burgundy. I reckon this bottle of French water will cost Lefevere even more when you look at the lost world exposure from not wearing the yellow jersey.
Yates had to be called from the shower in the team bus to hurriedly sprint to the presentation stage.
“It’s not the way I imagined taking the jersey,” he said. I’m not even sure what’s happened to Julian, I heard he got a time penalty for taking a feed late. I don’t think any rider would want to take yellow under these circumstances, I’d prefer to take it with my legs rather than the result of a time penalty. I didn’t even find out until I was in the bus and showered. I feel bad for him.”
“Tomorrow I was looking to try and take the jersey anyway, so I guess we’ll just try and go in with the same tactic, try and win the stage and see what happens.”
Mitchelton Scott team manager Matt White was pretty philosophical. “I guess rules are rules. It may not be the way we envisaged getting the jersey but now we have it we will do all in our power to keep it as long as possible. Stage 6 was always one we had marked for Adam to attack but now we may have to rethink all that. We will need to honour the jersey by setting the pace early, but it would be great to see a breakaway get clear up the road early with the right mix. That will mean the pressure will come off us.”
Most riders never get the chance to wear the most famous jersey in cycling, the Maillot Jaune. But for Adam this is a bit of positive Karma. He should have had his day in the Golden Fleece back in 2016 when Race leader Chris Froome and Richie Porte crashed into the motorbike on Mt Ventoux. All the rules said that Yates should have been awarded the yellow jersey but the officials made a new rule. Then there was also the unbelievable moment on stage 7 when the one kilometre to go an inflatable object deflated right on top of him. That probably cost Yates a place on the final podium in Paris as he went on to finish fourth overall only 21 seconds behind Quintana who was third.
“Out of every crisis comes opportunity,” a reflective Mitchelton Scott team owner Gerry Ryan said. “Adam deserves to have some good Karma come his way for a change. I well remember the world coverage we received when the bus crashed into the finish gantry on stage 1 in 2013. But it was what we did after that made the story so special,” Ryan said referring to taking their first ever stage win and then Simon Gerrans claiming the yellow Jersey.
Stage 5 was a bit of a snooze fest for most of the race with no breakaways staying clear and the peloton happy to have a recovery day. But that all changed with about 30 km to go and Team Ineos finally flexing a bit of muscle. But it all stayed together and a very technical bunch sprint transpired.
Belgian superstar Wout van Aert was relieved of his support role by Jumbo-Visma and rattled home to pass Cees Bol right on the line. Irishman Sam Bennett finished third and become the first Irishman since Sean Kelly to take the green jersey. Some consolation for his team Deceuninck-Quickstep team.
Australia’s pocket rocket Caleb Ewan was too far back in the final run in and finished eighth.