When Emirates Team General Manager Mauro Gianetti announced Tadej Pogačar and Adam Yates would play in 2023 Tour de France As a co-leader, it is taken with a massive dose of salt. Childhood is always in full swing in the weeks leading up to the Grand Départ, with top contenders going out of their way to explain why their rivals, rather than themselves, are the ones to watch. Nobody wants to be under the pressure of being viewed as favourites, so the comments from the Emirates’ camp seem like a classic transfer tactic aimed at downplaying Pogacha’s hype.
Of course, legitimate questions have been raised about Pogacha’s fitness following his injury in April’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege match, and he has just returned to compete in the Slovenian national championships, Gianetti said. Do worry about his wrist being uncomfortable. But fully restored as a cause of co-leadership. But that doesn’t convince anyone that Pogacar isn’t the real leader.
Judging from what happened today, perhaps they were telling the truth. It wasn’t Pogaca, but Yates, the Emirates driver who crossed the finish line in Bilbao to celebrate victory, and he was given some freedom in the final to go out and attack, then work with his twin Simon before taking won. Get a stage win in the Family Duo Sprint.
Initially, the Emirates did seem to have only Pogaca’s fate in mind. On the decisive final climb of Pikes Hill, they put in strong strides with the Slovenian in the lead. First Felix Gross Chatner and then Yates himself tearing the main car to shreds. Only defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and surprise of the day Victor Lafay were able to follow Yates, who started after a quick 250m turn to allow Poga Cha (Pogačar) attacks. It appears that this is the behavior of an ultra-familist rather than a co-leader.
But when momentum died after Vingegaard refused to take his turn, Yates bridged back to them with several other GC contenders (David Gaudu, Mattias Skjelmose and his brother Simon) and what happened next was the first sign that the team was indeed on track Try a new two-headed approach. Instead of setting the tempo for Pogacha again or inflicting more damage on his already eliminated GC opponent, Yates used the slowdown to cheer himself up.
Then, when Adam joined with his twin Simon, he radioed his team to ask what to do, and he was given the chance to move on: he was free to ride with Simon and win the stage. This is especially important because Simon Yates, a former grand tour champion and elite climber, is a serious contender for the yellow jersey and a rival of Pogacha. If the Emirates team really only had Pogaca on their minds, Adam would surely have been told to sit at Simon’s wheel so as not to help him buy time.
After winning the stage, Yates talked more about his role on the team, which he described as somewhere between a co-leader and a family member. “I’m sure people are skeptical about having two guys as a leader. I might be a leader, but it’s more of a support. When I can do something like this with a team under pressure and it turns out like this, then that’s it. Perfect. I support Tadeji 100% for the next few weeks.”
The idea seems to be to use Yates to help Pogacha when necessary, but also keep him high on GC, giving the team another option. That was the case for today’s game, with Yates setting up first for Pogacha’s attack and then mounting himself when his team-mate failed to bring down Wengergard.
We’ve seen the Ineos Grenadiers use this approach successfully in past Tour de France events, such as in 2018, when Chris Froome came into play behind Geraint Thomas ( Geraint Thomas finished third, and the following year Thomas also finished third behind Egan Bernal in a one-two at Ineos. Interestingly, this is also how Jumbo-Visma managed to beat Pogaca last year, when Wengergaard joined forces with Primoz Rolic on the Galibi Pass, attacking and eventually breaking the Slovenian multiple times, for Wengergard’s eventual victory laid the groundwork.
In this sense, since last year there has been a reversal of roles between Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma, with Jumbo no longer including a co-leader this year in the absence of Roglič. The UAE team played very aggressively today, first Pogachar wanted to advance, then Yates launched the attack, while Jumbo was more conservative, Wengergaard waited for his teammates to catch up after climbing, and started to chase the two Yates .
It was another impressive display of depth from the team, with the familiar duo of Sepp Kuss and Walter Van Alt, joined by newcomer Wilco Kelderman, bridging him, Leading the main team reduced to only a dozen drivers, and finally reached the finish line in Bilbao. However, the inability of any of these riders to keep up with Yates could be a problem and does make them look weaker than they did last year. As a rider with past Giro d’Italia podiums and a fifth-place finish at the last Tour de France in 2021, Kelderman is someone who could fill a similar role to Roelic, but early evidence suggests , Yates will be under a more influential co-leader and super-domesticator than he is.
Yates will now don the yellow jersey and it will be interesting to see how determined the Emirates are in defending it. While he would be a useful back-up for Pogacha, who doesn’t have to take on the demanding media responsibilities that come with a shirt, the team now still has an obligation to defend it, which could drain precious energy and Jumbo-Visma And other opponents can get more rest. But with the Tour just one day away, they’ll be happy to give Jumbo-Visma and all the other competitors another thing to think about, a very dangerous looking and well placed Adam Yates.