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Confident Yates full of Tour ambition

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Nuits-Saint-Georges (France) (AFP)

A year ago Adam Yates was one of the Tour de France revelations in finishing fourth and now his twin brother Simon has lofty ambitions.

Adam Yates surprised even himself when he won the young rider's white jersey a year ago and spent much of the race in the top three before finishing fourth, behind winner Chris Froome, Frenchman Romain Bardet and Nairo Quintana of Colombia.

But that success, and Simon Yates's own strong showing at last year's Vuelta a Espana, means the latter came to the Tour with a definite aim.

"I came here with more ambition because I've already ridden top 10 in a Grand Tour," said the British Orica rider.

"I'd like to continue with that, that's where I'd like to be: I'd like to be a GC (general classification) rider.

"For sure I came here with more ambition. Straight away we came here with the goal to win the white jersey.

"My bro, last year he'd never really ridden for GC so we didn't know if he could last the three weeks."

Yates, 24, was 89th in his last Tour appearance in 2015 but since then had a strong Vuelta last year and in April was second to Australian Richie Porte in the Tour of Romandie -- his best result yet in a major one-week stage race.

He's made a good start to this race and on Wednesday climbed into the white jersey his brother won last year after a strong sixth-placed finish on the first mountain finale of the race left him sixth overall.

He's guarded about his overall chances but believes this weekend's back-to-back mountain stages in the Jura and then the Alps will go some way to demonstrating who's capable of what on this Tour.

"There's not many opportunities for the GC guys this year to really make a difference, so I think every day counts and the weekend's going to be (two of) those days."

Yates might be one of the most likely contenders to attack in the mountains this weekend, but he says compatriot Froome, the race leader, won't be just sitting back and defending the yellow jersey.

"Froomey likes to be aggressive, the (Sky) team are up for the challenge," he said.

"There's a long way to go and a lot of hard stages (but) they'll give it a go."

- 'Very decisive' -

Froome believes this weekend's eighth and ninth stages, in particular Sunday's, will shake up the overall sandings, but he insisted there are tougher challenges to come later in the race, including the final week in the Alps.

"It is going to be an important block these next two days, certainly Sunday's stage is going to be very decisive," said the 32-year-old.

The Mont du Chat climb on Sunday is one of the toughest in the race and classified as hors (above) category.

It's 8.7km long and averages a 10.3 percent gradient, but it also comes after another two hors category climbs that are almost as tough.

Froome and many of his rivals also tackled it during last month's Criterium du Dauphine.

"There's going to be a lot of climbing and we'll see a lot more damage than in the Dauphine on that climb," he said of the Mont du Chat.

"But I do believe there are tougher stages back-to-back later in the race; for example the Telegraphe and Galibier stage followed by the Izoard the next day is a harder combination than what we're up against these next two days.

"But certainly Sunday's stage is going to be very decisive."

Those Alpine stages 17 and 18 feature some monsters that are longer than the Mont du Chat climb, but not as steep.

Their summits all sit at more than 2,000 metres above sea level while this weekend's climbs peak at more than 500 metres lower.

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