Belgian Classics star Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) will fight until the last to hold on to the yellow jersey in the Tour de France in order to honour the jersey.
Van Avermaet rode the cobbles to Roubaix with ease in stage nine, but many thought that he would lose the lead in the first Alpine stage on Tuesday. However he fought to maintain it by going in the break and ended up adding nearly two minutes to his overall lead.
“The yellow jersey is as big as a stage win in the Tour de France,” Van Avermaet said. “I am really enjoying it.
“It’s a real honour to ride with this everyday, and that’s why I tried to defend it as much as possible. And that’s why I try to show it and be at the front. That’s why I attacked in Roubaix, and I have been at the front today.
“I have already spent 11 days in yellow, and not many Belgian guys have had this jersey.”
Van Avermaet gave Belgium a gold medal in the road race at the 2016 Olympics. He has also developed to the top level in the Classics, last year going on a winning streak that saw him take E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix.
He had the leader’s yellow jersey for three days in 2016, but now he has had it since stage three when his team won the time trial. The ride is for him but for also the team who lost overall leader Richie Porte due to a crash and fractured collarbone on stage nine.
Van Avermaet put in a huge effort to keep the lead over four major climbs on Tuesday after after making into a large breakaway early in the stage.
The group was whittled down byt stayed free over the big Alpine passes including the Col de la Croix Fry and the Col de la Colombière. Van Avermaet lost contact with Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), who went on to win the stage, but gained 1-39 on Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and now leads by 2-22.
“Today I went at the right moment that cost a lot of energy. Getting in the break gave me some minutes and that was key to me being able to keep the yellow jersey,” Van Avermaet said.
“Today was a good day, but tomorrow will be a super hard day. In the past, I know I can have a good day the day after a rest day. I also know that I can also pay it back when I go over my limit.
“Tomorrow is probably a little too much. I am happy that I could defend it today but I am giving myself almost zero chance tomorrow to keep the jersey.”
Wednesday’s stage 11 is shorter than stage 10 at just 108.5km, but features four major climbs, starting with the Montée de Bisanne, Col du Pré, and Cormet de Roselend, before a summit finish to La Rosière.