Yates: “You never know when you’re going to get ambushed”
While rain fell at the start, Sean Yates and Steven De Jongh were setting up for a day of work inside the Citroen car of Tinkoff-Saxo. The Brit wound down the window and spoke to RIDE about the opening stanza of the 2015 Tour de France and the expectations for what’s yet to come. Below is a transcript of that exchange…
RIDE: I’m here with Sean Yates who is in the warmth of his car just getting ready for the start of stage five. It was quite an interesting day yesterday; Alberto [Contador] had a wheel problem [and] we saw it afterwards. Does it mean that he rode with resistance for… how much of the race?
Sean Yates: “Yeah, for the last 25km he had a buckled back wheel so that wasn’t ideal but there wasn’t an option other than to ride with it – changing it would have been tricky. He survived and lives to fight another day.”
In that sort of environment, are you having discussion about coming back [to replace his bike or swap a wheel]? How do you manage it?
“Well, I think like Steven said, ‘If they need to change something then they have to sort it [out themselves] because we’re too far back and it would take too much time.
“The options were limited but as it turned out they decided not to change and it was obviously the right decision.”
At the finish, how did he manage himself? Was he frustrated?
“No, no, no… happy. Another day has gone by without losing time.
“Sometimes there is a possibility to put time into rivals, like we did in stage two, but yesterday was not to be…
“Obviously Froome put the hammer down but he didn’t gain so, you know, you’ve just got to try and put a lid on things and when the opportunity arises to put time in, then you take it. Those days are hard because you’ve got to stay on constant alert.
“You never know when you’re going to get ambushed.
You’ve worked with Chris [Froome] as well. Are you surprised with how he managed the cobbles? There were a couple of spectacular moments when you could really see the rear wheel jumping over the stones…
“Yeah, obviously last year he didn’t get the opportunity to race on the cobbles but apparently he was going well in the training.
“When you’ve got good legs, you can go pretty well over anything.
“Obviously the fact that he’s never raced really in those conditions means he’s probably not maximising his fitness levels – as are all the other GC contenders, they’re in the same boat really. It’s not their terrain but if, physically you’re able to push the power, then you’re going to be okay as long as you’re in the right place.
“Placing is everything, pretty much.”
And how is it working with both Peter [Sagan] and Alberto?
“It’s working out fantastically at the moment and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t continue. Peter is happy, he’s getting the chances… he was very, very close in stage two, yesterday [stage three] he could have won the stage. He’s second in the points jersey and it’s all panning out nicely at the moment.”
And just finally because this is an Australian magazine but you’ve got Mr Tactician – Michael Rogers just seems to be the man to follow when it’s a crisis.
“Yeah, obviously he’s the road captain because he’s been in many situations and he’s got experience, he’s got a cool head on his shoulders, he’s an intelligent guy… so he’s the ideal candidate for that role.
“Obviously in Team Sky he rode [the Tour] in 2012 and he’s got a good relationship with everybody.
“Everyone respects him so he ticks all the boxes.”
That second stage, when it got feral with the weather and the echelons splits, it was an obvious lesson: just follow Michael because he’s the one who always manages to get in the right move.
“Yes. You just cannot take any risks and you just have to say to yourself, ‘If I’m not there, I’m screwed.’
A few guys got screwed because they weren’t there but obviously it’s not as easy as all that because there’s only a certain amount of road space and you’ve to 200 guys and they’re all pretty much know the scenario that’s going to evolve. But it’s only those guys who really commit 100 per cent who make it.”
Today [stage five] is meant to be a rudimentary stage but it’s windy, it’s rainy, it’s nasty…
“It’s another day when you’re going to have to be on high alert because we do a lot of changes in direction, it’s windy, it’s wet, there are some small roads… so it’s another one-day Classic, pretty much.”
What do you tell Alberto? Or you don’t need to give him advice…?
“We know the scenario. They’re all pro bike riders. You just have to sit together and you have to be in the front. End of story.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold