By Julien Pretot
ANDORRA LA VELLA (Reuters) - Adam Yates is riding the Tour de France aiming for the general classification for the first time and so far he has been doing pretty well thanks to a no-nonsense approach to the three-week race.
Going into the first rest day, the Orica-Bike Exchange rider is second overall, 16 seconds behind fellow Briton Chris Froome of Team Sky, and wears the white jersey for the best Under-25 rider.
His lack of experience might play against the 23-year-old as a grueling third week of racing, which often favors seasoned riders, is looming, but Yates is not be worried.
"If I have a bad day and I lose a couple of minutes then it is what it is. If I have good legs I'll take my opportunity," he told reporters on Monday, his chin showing stitches after he somersaulted over a deflated 1 km arch near the end of the seventh stage on Friday.
He is also expecting to lose "4 minutes" to Froome in Friday's individual time trial, a specialty in which the 58 kg climber struggles.
Yates completed two grand tours, the Vuelta in 2014 and the Tour last year, aiming for stage wins, a way of racing that is different from riding for "GC" (general classification).
Yates, one of the most gifted riders of his generation, is a potential Tour de France winner and the time has now come for him to play with the best over three weeks, meaning a stage win has to come second to GC considerations.
"Last year was different because I was trying to get in the breakaway," he said.
"For me it is more difficult to get in the break than to follow the GC guys. You spend the first hour, hour-and-a-half doing max sprints.
"It's a completely different kind of race, and for me a lot of the training I do is based on the final and the finish climb and race in a steady tempo."
However, Yates, whose twin brother Simon also rides with Orica-Bike Exchange but is not on the Tour this year, would easily trade a decent overall finish in Paris against a stage win.
"If you come fifth in a grand tour it's nice but you don't get to raise your arms in the air, you don't celebrate," he said.
Retaining the white jersey all the way to Paris would not top a stage win either.
"It's nice but in the end if you win a stage you go down in history as a Tour de France stage winner," said Yates.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alison Williams)