British twins, Simon Yates and Adam Yates, will join the Orica-GreenEdge team in 2014. They are part of a feature in RIDE #62 about ‘The Class of 2013’ which profiles young riders from around the world who essentially enjoyed one form of graduation during the season… Caleb Ewan (who signed his first pro contract – for 2015 – earlier this year), Rohan Dennis (who was winning races as a neo pro in 2013), Damien Howson (the current under-23 TT world champion), as well as the talented Polish pair Rafal Majka and Michal Kwiatkowski.
Rob Arnold spoke to the Yates brothers while they shared a house in England early in November. Here is a transcript of the interviews…
Part 01: Q&A with Simon Yates
– By Rob Arnold
“It’s a bit of a shock really for some people, especially the British fans,” said Simon Yates when we first spoke on the phone. He was talking, of course, about his decision to join the Orica-GreenEdge team together with his brother Adam. The pair have a two-year agreement with the Australian team starting in 2014. On the day of our conversation, the pair happened to be staying in the same house but they’ve not lived together for the past three-and-a-half years. Simon has been based near Manchester racing with the British Cycling Academy while Adam has been living in France and racing with the CC Etupes. In December 2013, they’ll fly to Australia to meet their future team-mates, get measured up for bikes and other equipment. Their first race for their new team is expected to be the Challenge Mallorca series in early February.
“I think a lot of them assumed: ‘British rider, he should go to Sky…’ but the GreenEdge team seemed to be a good fit and everything fit into place.”
RIDE: Tell us about the negotiation because I think many people, as you said, would have assumed that there’d be a pathway for you at Sky.
Simon Yates: “The negotiation only started after the Tour de l’Avenir and from there it went relatively quickly – a few emails to and fro and the usual details of working out a deal to see what there was on offer for us. After that, I think Sky realised that their bid was over. I’d been speaking to them for most of the year and, after the Nations Cup, they said they were willing to take me on. But once the offer from GreenEdge was on the table, it all just kinda fell into place.”
Money and the program comes into negotiations, of course, but what mattered most?
Simon: “Oh, program. Easy. I couldn’t give a damn about the money really. You know, I’m riding my bike for a living now and I’m not too bothered at this stage. Perhaps we could demand a bit more money but we might end up without a good program and that’ll mean you’re stuck on the money.”
Did you two come as a package for GreenEdge, is that how you sold yourself?
Simon: “Not really, no. We got different managers on purpose. At the moment, it’s all fine and dandy because we wanted to join a team together but we had in the back of our minds that it might not work out that way. I don’t know if we’ll race together – it’s a matter of working with whatever the team has got in store for us. I’m not expecting to do all my racing with my brother. It’s nice and I think I do work better when he is there but if they’ve got a different plan or another approach then I’ll have to go along with that. I haven’t raced a lot with Adam for the last three years, not until this year really so it’s not an issue.”
We have a wonderful photo of your win in stage six of the Tour of Britain ahead of Martin Elmiger. It looks like you were, first of all, confident, but also on top of your gear at the top of the hill.
Simon: “Yeah, well it was a bit of a headwind up the climb with Sky doing the usual thing of sitting up the front setting a blistering tempo and it was just whittling the group down slowly. Obviously, I just sat in the wheels and once it came to the sprint there were only so many guys left. I was fresh and had so much extra than the guys doing the work on the front or trying to attack, so it came together nicely at the finish.
“Winning a stage of your national tour – you can’t really ask for much more. I was also representing my country as well so it seemed even bigger. It was a perfect scenario.”
What do you expect from 2014 – does it feel like an adventure or more like you’re just clocking on for another job in a different uniform?
Simon: “It’s a bit of an adventure, I guess. It’s a whole new set up, a new team environment for me. But at the end of the day, it’s a job. It’s a career and when I do go to a race, I’ll have a job to do and hopefully I’ll be able to fulfil that role.
“Obviously I’ll get my wage for riding my bike and doing my job but if you’ve also got something interesting to say, then there may be other opportunities but I’ll just stick to my job before I start thinking about anything else.”
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Part 02: Q&A with Adam Yates
RIDE: Congratulations on the contract with the Orica-GreenEdge team. Do you feel a little bit Aussie now..?
Adam Yates: “Err, not really. It feels quite normal largely because it’s an English-speaking team, so I don’t really think of it as ‘foreign’. I think it will be a good experience really to get away from all the British lads.”
How is it that you came to cycling? Is it just a case of you riding a bike well and you’ve been able to continue and progress until it’s become your career?
Adam: “When it started, I guess it was because of my dad. He used to be a runner but he got bad knees and he took up cycling. We went to watch him race and that’s basically how we got into it. We saw it and then thought we’d have a go.
“We were at the track for about three or four years before we even touched the road. But we never really had any connection beyond that.”
Were you two part of a talent ID program, how did you come into the British Cycling structure?
Adam: “It all happened really early on. There are three different approaches really: we started with the youth division in a thing called the ‘Talent Team’ and we were involved in that for a year or two and then once you progress through the juniors you go onto the Olympic development program. We did another two years there and then it was off to the British Cycling Academy, but I didn’t get on that one. I didn’t make the selection but my brother did. And that’s when I made the switch and moved to France.
“I’ve lived for three-and-a-half years in France. The first year was with a really small team and this season was with CC Etupes and there are a couple of good guys coming from there, like Thibaut Pinot and Warren Barguil. It’s a pretty decent team.
“I didn’t have any results [with the Talent Team] really. I didn’t get selection but my brother is pretty good on the track and he went straight through. It was probably a blessing in disguise really because I’ve found myself these last couple of years.
“It all starts when you’re a junior and it’s all track based, really, because there’s not that much on the road when you’re young. I was pretty decent at track but there was always other people in front of me… I just wasn’t good enough at the time.”
Is the culture changing in Britain now that there have been a few Tour de France victories, for example? Is there less of an emphasis on track cycling?
Adam: “No, not at all. It’s probably going even more towards the track now. As far as we know, the academy that Simon was on will have even less numbers now and it will be more track focussed. It’s a bit of a surprise really considering the success but I’m guessing it’s because that’s where the funding goes to.”
If the funding is so pivotal for the program, is the Olympics still the major objective of British cycling?
Adam: “I’m guessing it probably is, yeah. The funding is always based over four years, around the Olympic cycle.”
I wondered if it might have reached a crescendo with the London Games and now the approach may have shifted… is that how it feels for a young guy?
Adam: “No, not really. It feels much the same. I don’t think they’re going to switch anything to road: it’s always been the track, hasn’t it? There’s never been much sport on the road until Sky came along. I don’t feel like anything has really changed. The success that we’ve had has always been on the track.”
Since those three years in France and now particularly with your contract being signed, does it feel like cycling is less enjoyable and more like a job?
Adam: “To be honest, not much is going to change really. When I was racing in France it was kinda full-time anyway; it was like I was riding as a professional already. Even though it was still amateur, you race as though you’re a cyclist – a professional.
“Obviously it’s a big step up but I don’t feel like there has been much change in terms of the routines and that sort of thing.”
Does your arrival at GreenEdge turn it from a sprint-based team to more of an all-round squad?
Adam: “It’s hard to say. They’ve signed a couple of good climbers this year – Ivan Santaromita and Estaban Chaves – so it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Hopefully, in the next couple of years, me and Simon can be part of a transformation but we’ll have to wait to find out. It’s an open door, isn’t it.
“The team has, up until now – from the outside looking in, anyway – been set up for the sprinters like Michael Matthews or someone like that. And they’ve got a couple of really strong guys like Cam Meyer who can do alright in the mountains but there was never a specialist climber there until now.”
You call yourself a ‘specialist climber’?
Adam: “Yeah, I would say so. Two years ago I didn’t really specialise in anything but this year I really trained for it and I guess it shows. That’s what I’m best at.”
If Simon has been living near Manchester and doing the track program and you’re off in France climbing mountains are your body structures really different because of the different work you’ve been doing. Have you noticed a change?
Adam: “Erm, not totally. I’m about a kilo lighter but there not much difference. We’re not very different in actual body structure but he’s a lot better sprinter than I am.
“He’s a lot better on the short, steeper climbs than I am but on the longer ones, I’m probably better than him. In general there’s not much difference really. I can’t see any change.”
How heavy are you when you’re racing?
Adam: “Around 58 kilograms. I’m not big, am I? I’m not very tall. There is a very slight difference between us but we’re around 170cm.”
What’s going to happen for you as a bike rider – what do you want to do?
Adam: “I reckon the first couple of years is all about learning anyway. I can’t really say: ‘I want to go out and win this and this…’ If, in the future, I develop as the rider I want to be, I want to go for some of the Classics like Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne – all those kinds of races. But we’ll see how it goes. You never know how you’re going to develop. I don’t want to commit to anything and then put too much pressure on myself.”
When you’re frustrated and don’t want to be on the bike, what keeps you going and doing what you’ve been told to do for the day?
Adam: “Oh, nothing in particular. It’s just a case of getting in there and getting the job done really, isn’t it? There’s nothing to it other than just getting on with it. If you don’t do the training, you’re not going to get anywhere are you?
“I’ve gotten into it now and over the years it’s become a lot more serious. I still enjoy it now but getting results and performing well makes it different to when I started. It’s always good fun though, racing – isn’t it? It’s not a hard job is it. We ride a bike for a living.”
It’s quite cool to think about what’s happening for you: a young guy getting into the peloton with his whole career ahead of him… whereas a couple of years ago it might not have been such a happy place. There was an obligation that used to come with the job you’ve chosen. I’m talking about doping, of course. Do you feel like it’s different now?
Adam: “It does, yeah. You’d see only a couple of years ago a lot of people getting caught but as far as we’re concerned it’s never really been a thing that has occurred to me because, as you say, it’s kind of a blessed period.
“I’ve never experienced anyone doping or anything like that. I’d like to think that it’s grown up a bit and it’s all in the past now…
“Well, it feels that way to me because I’ve never had a first-hand experience of it. I’ve never seen anyone do it and it’s not a forced thing for a young guy coming through.”
When you started on the track, was it a banked velodrome or was it just an old lap around a cricket oval?
Adam: “No, the first one we started on was the Manchester velodrome. And the first time I rode it, I fell off.”
How was the worlds for you? The under-23 race was outstanding to watch. I don’t know if it would have been fun to ride…
Adam: “Well, it was pretty difficult really. While I’m not trying to make excuses for myself, I did have a broken rib at the time so I wasn’t at top condition. I still went alright because the accident happened about two weeks earlier but I had some pretty decent form then so I was still going okay but I wasn’t one hundred per cent. In the end, I just didn’t have it and I rolled in about 19th or 20th.
“There were a couple of strong guys in there but it wasn’t my day.
“I broke [my rib] in a club race.
“At the worlds, we tried a couple of times but with the way the course was it was pretty difficult to get away. The guy who won it, that Mohoric, he was pretty decent at going down hill and perhaps that’s what made all the difference.
“It’s just bike racing isn’t it? You win some times if you get a bit of a break and it works out but some times it doesn’t work out…”
On climbing days, you guys are generally at the front. Do you find that it’s easy to position yourself in the bunch?
Adam: “When it’s a climbing stage, I don’t find it too bad. There can be a lot of fighting when there’s crosswinds and the like but when it’s a climb at the end, there’s generally a lot more room to move. It’s not all lined out as it can be. It’s the flat and windy days that really get to me.”
What about power – can you give a couple of examples of what you’re putting out. Maybe for the Tour de l’Avenir stage when you get second and Simon was first, what was it like?
“That was on the day of the col de la Madeleine. And I didn’t actually have a power meter for the Tour de l’Avenir but the week before when I was training I was doing some pretty decent numbers, about 6.2 or 6.3 watts per kilo.
“It’s funny because it’s only this year that I got a power meter. I’d only had a PowerTap but I couldn’t really use that in racing. It’s definitely made a difference, not really in performance but in training. I feel like I’ve got much more of a goal, something to look at. But I used to just go out and go as hard as I could for as long as I could – there was no structure there.
“I’d say that, after this year, I’d like to work with power much more.”
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