Jayco-Alula were going back to the strategy board at the Tour Down Under on Saturday after fresh legs prevailed at Willunga Hill.
The Australian-registered team entered their home WorldTour event wanting to win every stage, but with one day remaining they are yet to get on the board.
Simon Yates was a chief protagonist during stage five on Saturday, with Chris Harper setting him up for a blistering attack on the tour’s most iconic ascent, which the peloton tackled twice.
“We needed the climb to be super-fast, and Simon likes to be a little bit more explosive, so by trying to lure a few people out with Chris, it gave him a better opportunity to launch an attack, instead of doing it straight from the front,” sports director Mathew Hayman said.
Yates attacked inside the final kilometre but he couldn’t shake off six riders, including 21-year-old Oscar Onley (dsm-firmenich PostNL), who took stage honours, while Stephen Williams (Israel-Premier Tech) assumed the ochre leader’s jersey on countback.
The squad is a man down after Luke Plapp abandoned due to crash-related injuries earlier in the week, and Yates lamented the loss of his teammate after the stage.
“We wanted to make it a bit harder the first time around but with Plappy gone we don’t have the men to do it and no one else wanted to take it up. It was on us,” Yates said. “Still a lot of fresh guys coming into the final climb and then I just did my best from there. I tried just under a k to go to shake them but wasn’t to be.”
Yates is seventh on general classification – 13 seconds adrift of Williams ahead of Sunday’s finale to Mount Lofty, where the climbers will have another opportunity.
The 31-year-old laughed when asked if he could make up that time on his compatriot, win a stage and claim the race title, but he also didn’t rule it out.
“They obviously have a strong team here as well so that will be tough to overturn,” Yates said of Israel-Premier Tech. “But I won a stage last year. I don’t see why not, we can try again, lay it out there and see what we can do.”
Jayco-Alula has done the lion’s share of the work in the peloton at the race this week, omnipresent at the front of the bunch. And other teams have let them.
“Yeah, they have, so thanks to them. We’ll give them a hand tomorrow,” Israel-Premier Tech sports director Sam Bewley said.
Hayman has backed Yates’ form and is hopeful Mount Lofty proves tougher for rivals than Willunga.
“He’s a very crafty rider, he has a lot of experience,” Hayman said. “The tour has been a lot easier than we expected or would have liked. We can’t make other teams race, and everyone wanted to leave it up to this stage.
“Hopefully with a bit more fatigue in the legs we’ll see some more gaps tomorrow.”