Yates and Almeida Dominate the Tour de Suisse, Look Primed for the TdF

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

On the evidence of the Giro d’Italia and the just completed Tour de Suisse, we can gift-wrap the Tour de France yellow jersey and ship it, express, to Tadej Pogačar’s house. No need even to run the race. Because as dominant as the Slovenian’s Giro win was, by nearly 10 minutes, the one-two finish of his top lieutenants, Adam Yates and João Almeida, in the Tour de Suisse was, in a way, even more impressive.

Yates won the GC by 22 seconds over his teammate, with last year’s winner, Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), completing the podium, 3:02 adrift. That is a sizeable winning margin for an eight-day race. But what really illustrated the dominance of the Yates-Almeida tandem was that they finished one-two in the last four stages of the race, all mountain finishes, including Sunday’s ITT.

Stage 5: 148.6 km, Ambri to Cari

  1. Adam Yates
  2. João Almeida, 0:05
  3. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers), 0:16

Stage 6: 42.5 km (stage shortened due to weather), Ulrichen to Blatten

  1. João Almeida
  2. Adam Yates, 0:04
  3. Skjelmose, 0:09

Stage 7: 118 km, Villars-sur-Ollons to Villars-sur-Ollons

  1. Adam Yates
  2. João Almeida, same time
  3. Matthew Riccitello (Israel–Premier Tech), 0:14

Stage 8: 15.7 km ITT, Aigle to Villars-sur-Ollons

  1. João Almeida
  2. Adam Yates, 0:09
  3. Mattias Skjelmose, 0:20

The ITT performance was especially eye-catching since two-thirds of it consisted of a tough category 1 climb (10.2 km @ 8%, with the steepest ramps on the final 3 km). That augurs well for the team as the Tour’s final stage includes a tricky climb (8.1 km @ 5.6%).

So thoroughly did the UAE Team Emirates outclass the competition that Yates was able to ask Almeida, as they were climbing to the finish (7.9 km @ 7.6%) on stage 7 if he would let him take the stage win. Always a gentleman, Almeida agreed.

Yates expressed his gratitude after that stage. “He is a very nice person,” he told journalists. “When we rode away together, he asked me what we were going to do. I asked if I could win and he immediately said yes. It shows what a great person he is, and what a good teammate. He was also very good himself, so he could have easily won. Credit to him for that.”

For the 31-year-old Yates, this was his first victory in a major World Tour stage race.

“It’s definitely one of the nicer wins of my career,” he said after the race had finished, adding that he thought he would lose his GC lead in the time trial. “With two kilometres to go, I wasn’t sure I could keep my lead in the general classification. I heard the time gaps with João and knew he was going to accelerate. I couldn’t do that anymore. I was at my limit, so I tried to keep my speed. Luckily, that was enough.

“One thing I had in the back of my mind for a while was the 2019 Tirreno-Adriatico, where I lost the TT on the last day by one second, and this had lived rent-free in my head for many years, so it’s finally good to win a race and win it with a TT.”

And, again, he praised his generous teammate: “To win any big bike race is a big privilege, and to share the podium with João as well, he’s a special teammate.”

Ironically, for the 25-year-old Almeida, coming second to Yates may have finally revealed what a special talent he is. His climbing and ITT abilities stamp him as a future Grand Tour winner if he is allowed to step out of Pogačar’s shadow.

“I’m really happy with the time-trial stage victory,” he said. “I think [it’s] my first TT victory except nationals, so that’s pretty good. At the start of the day, I knew it was quite impossible to win the GC against Adam.”

With the start of the Tour de France now less than two weeks away, it appears that Pogačar and his UAE Team Emirates are perfectly set up for a top performance. Their main rivals, on the other hand, not so much.

The recent performances of Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick Step) and Primož Roglič (BORA-hansgrohe) in the Critérium du Dauphiné left a few questions to answer, while the status of defending Tour champion Jonas Vingegaard (Visma–Lease a Bike) and of his top lieutenants, Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss, is shrouded in uncertainty.

They all must know by now that they have to come to the Tour in the best form of their lives if they want to have a chance of beating Pogačar.