TIME TO STAND AND DELIVER
By Steve Thomas
As he skipped onto the podium and pulled on the race-leaders jersey, somehow Adam Yates managed to look sideways and spot me. There was a huge cheeky-boy grin that came right across his face as we made eye contact.
He’d done it. He snared his first-ever pro bike race victory with the GC title at the 2014 Tour of Turkey. Just a couple of days earlier I’d arrived mid-race on an all-night flight, and while walking to the start of the next day’s stage I spotted Adam Yates, or was it Simon?
The Yates twins are undoubtedly the hottest brother act in Grand Tour racing today. Recall back in 2018 that brother Simon almost won the Giro and Adam took the GC win at the Vuelta a Espana.
WHAT ABOUT ADAM?
It was back in 2016 that Adam made his Tour de France debut and finished in an incredible fourth place overall. This year the 26-year-old Brit will start the Tour once again as a podium favorite. We caught up with Adam as he prepares to pitch for Tour de France glory.
Steve Thomas: Despite being identical twins and both now riding for Grand Tour honors as leaders of the same WorldTour team, you took quite different ways to the top, with your brother being selected for the British Cycling Academy and you taking a more old-school route through the French amateur team ranks. Did this separate you and strain the twin bond?
Adam Yates: We took different paths, but we’re pretty close, and we talk a lot—pretty much every day. I wasn’t good enough to get selected by the British Cycling Academy, whereas Simon was a little bit quicker and a little bit better at team pursuiting, so he was able to go with the program.
I had to find a different path, and at the time I was hanging out with my friend Josh Hunt, who was already in France and riding for a French team. I asked if they had a space, and they did, so I went over and spent a couple of years with that team. So, different paths, but in the end we both ended up on the same team.
ST: How did it happen that you both ended up signing for GreenEdge at the same time?
AY: We both came here together. It all really started coming together when we did the Tour de L’Avenir together for Great Britain. Simon won some stages, and I was second on GC. That’s really like the Under 23 Tour de France, so if you get yourself there and perform, well, the teams are going to start noticing. This was about the same time that Orica-GreenEdge was starting to make contact, and we made the move to professional. It’s been six years now, and time goes on.
ST: At that time all bets would have been on you signing for the British Team Sky. How differently would things have gone if you had?
AY: It’s hard to say, because we didn’t go there. We went to OGE and that’s just how it is. Straight away the team offered us protected roles, and we were leaders at almost every race we went to. When we first came to the team, there were no plans really. It was really a sprinter team and a TTT team, so when we initially came on, there weren’t really any climbers. So, every time there was a hilly stage, we got opportunities.
For us, it was quite an easy transition, because when we were racing U-23, we were kind of leaders when there were climbing stages, too. It was quite easy for us to go to the pros and be leaders on the climbing stages. It was a sort of natural progression, and it worked out pretty good.
ST: Since turning pro, has there ever been a time that you and Simon have considered going your separate ways to different teams?
AY: Well, maybe in the future, but right now the team looks after us, and I don’t see a need to change. I keep saying the team trusts us and we’re leaders, and they do everything to fully help us achieve what we do and to win bike races. So far so good. Let’s keep the ball rolling.
ST: When it comes to planning a season, with the three Grand Tours in particular, how does it work out? Do you decide which races you want to focus on, or is that down to the team?
AY: It’s all management really; I mean, we can suggest what we’d like to do, but at the end of the day, it’s all down to the team management. They’ve got a lot (26) of riders that they’ve got to juggle around and try to fit into programs.
A lot of the time it’s better if I’m split up with Simon, particularly because we are similar riders, we’re similarly built, and if we’re both going to the same race, we might get a similar result. But, if we went to two separate races, most of the time you’ll get double the result—in a way.
For example, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico are both at the same time. He goes to Paris-Nice and I go to Tirreno; if we both went to Paris-Nice, then we’d both maybe have the same result.
ST: With a Paris-Nice ITT stage win, it’s obvious that Simon has made huge progression in his time trialing. Have you both been working specifically on this?
AY: I always focus on it and always train for it. Everyone always tells me that I’m not great at TT’ing, but I do the same numbers in a TT as I do on a climb, so I can’t go much quicker than that; I can’t go much harder. You can’t really gain any watts on a TT day, not any more than on a climbing day.
I work on it, but it’s just whether the course suits me or not. So far this year I’ve had two top-10 finishes in TTs, but both of them have been hilly. As soon as there’s a hill in there, it increases my chances quite a lot. I do work on it, but it’s just one of those things.
ST: Your first Tour de France in 2016 was amazing, and you took the white jersey and fourth overall. Last year you went in with high hopes, but it didn’t really go as planned, and you had a lot of bad luck. How did you handle that, and how do you hope to overcome it this year?
AY: Well, yeah, I guess. Two weeks before the Tour I was second in Dauphine, after Geraint Thomas, and he went on to win the Tour. So yeah, for me it was a big disappointment, because I knew I had good form. But sometimes it doesn’t work out, and you make some small mistakes and they have big consequences. That’s what it is, that’s bike racing, and I guess that’s the sport at the highest level.
When you make lots of mistakes and have to mop up, and things don’t go your way. I think I had about four crashes in the first three days, which doesn’t help. Hopefully, this year we can avoid these mistakes, and I can try and stay out of trouble. That’s all you can do really, and to hope for the best.
ST: Sky’s team leadership (between Thomas and Bernal) situation is potentially strange (again) and could lead to some uncertainty on the road. Was this apparent last year, and could it change things at all?
AY: I don’t think it changes anything. For all of the riders and everybody else, I don’t think anything changes. For us it doesn’t matter, we do our race, and they do their race.
ST: You’ve had a pretty good spring and look to be on course for the Tour. How far are you off last
AY: It’s all pretty similar. It’s just that I’m getting more consistent. This year I’ve been to a lot of races, and it’s been proper racing, and a big opportunity to get some results. In previous years I’ve not raced so much, but got similar results (and stats), but when you race less, people notice you less.
ST: Both you and Simon are based in Andorra. You have different schedules, but do you get to ride and train a lot together?
AY: We do when we can, but it’s difficult to train together when you have different schedules. So far this year I’ve been racing full gas, so when I do go home I’m resting, whereas he’s training for the Giro with big, long rides and big efforts, and I’m just doing recovery rides, so it’s hard to link up.
ST: Last year there were three separate British winners of the three Grand Tours. When you started out cycling and racing, that scenario would have seemed unimaginable.
AY: Well, yeah, it’s great for the country. I guess it all started with Chris Boardman, and just for example, we would never be in this situation if it weren’t for the track at Manchester (which was built as part of a bid to host the Commonwealth Games). It’s around the corner from my parent’s house, and it’s sort of a gateway to becoming
For Simon and me, it seemed a long way off, but we started young and progressed. It’s great for British
cycling, and hopefully when we’ve all retired, there’ll be a whole new generation of British riders winning