Britain’s Adam Yates on Wednesday reluctantly took the Tour de France’s yellow jersey as overnight leader Julian Alaphilippe was penalized for taking on water in the final 20km, a decision which prompted the Frenchman’s boss to claim “he did nothing wrong.”
Mitchelton-Scott’s Yates took advantage of Alaphilippe’s 20-second sanction for receiving a water bottle at the 17km mark as Belgium’s Wout van Aert won the fifth stage.
Taking on supplies from team cars is not allowed in the final 20km for safety reasons, but riders can drink or eat what they already have.
“Nobody wants to take the jersey like this. I was on the bus and we were about to leave for the hotel when I got a call,” Yates said.
“I’d already had my shower and everything. I asked Julian and he told me he had a time fine, but tomorrow I’ll give it everything to defend the jersey and we’ll see day by day,” he said.
“It’ll be a big fight tomorrow and Julian will want to show he’s still here,” he added.
Deceuninck Quick-Step’s Alaphilippe, who wore the jersey for 14 days during last year’s Tour, took the news on the chin.
“What can you do,” the former French soldier said. “They decided to impose a 20-second penalty and it’s their choice.
“There will be other days and other opportunities,” he added.
Deceuninck Quick-Step sporting director Tom Steels said there had been mitigating circumstances.
“It’s a shame to lose the yellow jersey like this. We knew there was the 20km rule,” he said.
“But today, to be honest, the circumstances were special. It was the only place that we found to give him a bottle,” he said.
“Julian was very disappointed because he did nothing wrong, he did not gain any sporting advantage by drinking twice from his bottle,” he added.
In the stage itself powerful Dutch outfit Jumbo-Visma made it two stage wins in two days, as Van Aert edged a tight bunch sprint on a narrow winding finish.
In another change of jerseys, Ireland’s Sam Bennett, who is on the same Deceuninck team as Alaphilippe, clinched the green sprint points shirt from seven time winner Peter Sagan by finishing third.
Van Aert’s Jumbo-Visma arrived at the Tour as the in-form team with the most powerful looking lineup in the Grand Boucle, and are the chief challengers to the dominance of Team Ineos who have won seven of the past eight Tours.
Jumbo leader Primoz Roglic won on Tuesday’s stage, testing the other overall contenders with his late kick and claiming the stage win atop the climb to an Alpine ski station.
On Wednesday, it was a hectic and windy finale as the race wound into the remote Ardeche region, where some of the pure sprinters were actually dropped as the pace hit 60kph in the closing 10km.
Ineos, who have signed Yates for next season, were heading up the peloton as it raced past fields of wilting sunflowers, but Jumbo sprung to life as the race entered Privas.
Van Aert won a windy stage on the Tour last year when many of the purist sprinters had been dropped, and was part of the team time trial victory for his outfit.
“It was a sweet win,” said Van Aert, who won the Milan-San Remo and the Strade Bianche classics in Italy ahead of the Tour.
“It was a hectic run-in, but I knew I was in with a chance once we were in the final kilometer,” the 25-year-old said.
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