In just his second attempt, Adam Yates today became the first British rider to win the best young rider classification at the Tour de France.
The 23-year-old rode an impressive race to finish in fourth place overall, well above expectation, giving ORICA-BikeExchange its best ever general classification result at the Tour.
Three weeks of racing saw the Australian outfit top the team classification over the first few stages before Yates won the white jersey on stage seven and held it all the way to the finish in Paris.
A series of impressive performances over several tough mountain stages saw Yates move into second overall before slipping to fourth over the last two days of racing, only 21seconds behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in third.
Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) won the race by over four minutes with Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) taking second.
“We came here not really riding for the overall,” said a smiling Yates in Paris. “It just kind of happened and the whole team have been incredible in their support, all the riders and the staff who have worked so hard everyday.”
“There has been no pressure, other than what I put on myself. We approached the race day-by-day and I’m very happy with how it has turned out, this is a fantastic honour.
“I had a bad day on stage 19 and I wasn’t sure how my legs would respond but I recovered well and here we are. I’ve won the white jersey and fourth overall and that’s very satisfying.
“I wouldn’t say that we are disappointed not to have made the podium, it’s one of those things. This is only my second Tour and all of the guys ahead of me have competed for the general classification in previous Grand Tours so I think we have done very well.
“The future is ahead of me and I’m sure I will be back fighting for a podium place or even challenging for the yellow jersey. I will try my best, you never what will happen, but I’m going to continue working hard and do everything possible to improve.”
The achievements of ORICA-BikeExchange at this year’s Tour de France have come down to a strong work ethic running throughout the Australian team.
Michael Matthews finally laid some ghosts to rest by taking a brilliant victory on stage ten after Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey controlled the breakaway and perfectly set up Matthews for the sprint and his first Tour de France stage win.
Sport director Matt White praised the effort and performance of the whole team over the course of the race, in particular that of 23-year-old Yates.
“This has been a very gratifying Tour de France for us,” said White. “We came here with ambitions to win a stage, that was our main objective so in that respect the first few days were key for us.”
“We targeted stages where we knew we had a good chance of getting a result and we did finally achieve that on stage ten. However once the first few days had passed we could begin to focus on the overall and the performances of Adam (Yates).
“Of course we knew that Adam is an incredible talent and full of potential and now I suppose the whole world also knows that. I think it’s very important not to put a 23-year-old like Adam under too much pressure and as we saw he responded very well and maintained a high level of consistency.
“We have always had faith in Adam’s ability and the way the whole team rallied around him throughout the race has been extremely pleasing and we have achieved a great result.
“It really is sensational. We have ticked every box, stage win, white jersey and fourth overall.”
How it happened:
Today’s final celebratory stage from Chantilly to Paris covered 113 easy kilometres, allowing the peloton to relax and enjoy the moment after three brutally difficult weeks of racing.
As tradition dictates champagne was passed around the peloton before the field arrived in Paris for the eight most famous finishing circuits in cycling.
The white jersey of Yates joined Froome in yellow, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) in green and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) in red and white at the front of the peloton as the four jersey winners led the field through the neutral zone.
The speed of the bunch finally increased along the banks of the Seine as the field made its way through central Paris towards the Champs Elysees.
A breakaway of eight riders escaped on the second circuit and held a lead of around 30seconds before being caught with two laps to go.
Impey led the peloton into the final circuit with crashes occurring as the field sped over the cobbles towards the sprint.
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) won the sprint on the Champs Elysees with Matthews finishing close behind in fifth.
ORICA-BikeExchange complete a successful Tour de France with the white jersey, fourth overall, a stage victory and numerous top ten finishes.
Tour de France stage 21 results
1. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) 02:43:08
2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) ST
3. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) ST
5. Michael Matthews (ORICA-BikeExchange) ST
Final general classification:
1. Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) 89:06:01
2. Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) 00:02:52
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 00:03:08
4. Adam Yates (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:03:29