Tour de l’Avenir Stage Winner: Simon Yates

Tour de l’Avenir Stage & Twinings ProAm Winner, Simon Yates has had an awesome 2011 for a teenager after winning a World title (Junior) in 2010.

The Great Britain Cycling Team’s Men’s Endurance Academy has produced many champions over the last six years  and another who seems destined for the pro peloton is Simon Yates.

Simon Yates, stage winner in the Tour de l’Avenir and much more … Photo: ASO

Winner of the World Madison title at the Junior Worlds in 2010, Simon was a first year Senior in 2011 but still won a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir and also a Premier Calendar event at Salisbury. It was an awesome year for the North West rider and he’s now into his second year with the Academy under the directorship of Chris Newton.

It’s all a long way from the start of the season when he put on his blog “How to top the most successful season to date?”

On the first of November last year, he left home and moved into a flat at Fallowfield. Like many before him, he had the same to say as many have admitted in the past such as top Sky pro, Ben Swift.

“I’m still getting to grips with the new training regime, cooking, doing my own washing, and basically fending for myself for the 1st time in 18 years and it’s been a challenge!” he said on his blog. That was the beginning of a monumental year for the rider who was one of the worlds top Juniors in 2010.
Speaking to Simon recently, he says of this first year in the Academy, “I struggled the first bit of the year and I had to adapt to how strong the other guys are and how the racing goes but in the second half of the year, everything clicked and starting to come together.”

“It’s good that we start off with the track in the winter because it gives us all the chance to get to know each other before you start going away on the road. You get to know how the team works…”

Simon Yates (right) in his first road race with the Academy, the Eddie Soens. L-R: Erick Rowsell, Jon Mould, Tom Moses, Sam Harrison, Mark Christian and Simon Yates.

The big talking point about Simon was the win in the Tour de l’Avenir. This is a race steeped in history, organised by ASO who organise the Tour de France and has always been regarded as the baby Tour de France. I remember when I heard Simon had won and it was like ‘wow, that’s something that is.’

He is a first year senior remember and competing against much older riders experienced in such events. Asked to recall that day, Simon says “the stage started off quite flat and then went over a few third cat climbs with 50k to go and then it was onto a circuit with a climb we did every lap”.

“Coming into the finish, there was quite a steep incline and then it levelled off with 200 metres to go. I’ve found I’m quite punchy as a rider, quite good on the steep stuff so as long as I got to the top of the steep incline first, I knew I had a pretty good chance of winning.”

“Half a lap to go, I said to the lads, I’m going to go for this here and they all backed me and I delivered. We had all the team on the front and I don’t think I’ve seen anything as impressive in any under 23 race. It was quite hectic with everyone fighting for positions. Luke Rowe was second to last man and Thwaitesy got me to the flat part and then I just hit out from there.”

At the end of an almost 100 mile race, the 19 year old beat Italy’s Filippo Fortin and Australian rider Thomas Palmer to the finish in Fossano. It was as Simon agreed, a million miles from the events he was winning as a Junior in Britain the year before.

Simon (right) with his twin brother Adam at the Revolution meeting recently.

But for every highlight or victory, just like any other rider, there is the toil that has to be done to get stronger and more experienced. Asked about his worst day on a bike, he says “the worst race of the year has got to be the Olympia Tour in Holland.”

“I was in the gutter all day every day , it was brutal. One day Keith (Lambert) was in the car and saw me struggling and told me straight, it’s easier at the front. He told me the basics and I started getting into a bit more and that was probably when my season changed.”

Simon went on to win a Premier Calendar race, the Twinnings ProAm which again, was a big achievement for such a young rider and equally, a great team effort. One of the rider in his team that day and out front for a long time was Luke Rowe. He moves on as does Mark Christian (to AN Post) and Erick Rowsell (to Endura Racing) which will leave riders like Simon with the responsibility of winning races for the team.

Asked if he will have more responsibility next year, Simon admitted he’d heard that he would but adds that for him to be successful, the team also have to have the responsibility to be behind him and help him. “If the responsibility comes my way, I’ll take it, I don’t mind, it gives me more opportunity to get results” he says.

That responsibility will also come on the track with the Academy expected to be looking to race at the Beijing World Cup where Simon hopes to get a ride in the Team Pursuit. Then, it will be full on for the road. “The road programme I think will be much the same as this year”. Simon says.

That winning celebration again, this time in 2010 winning a round of the Peter Buckley National Series for Juniors. Simon went on to win the World Junior Madison title with Dan McLay who is based in Belgium now.

“There will be a few changes like we’re going to do all the Nation Cups next season as the team want to qualify well for the Road Worlds (Limburg) and have six riders in the race like we did this year and so it will be easier to do if we go all the World Cup events.”

“We’re all motivated for the Road Worlds next year.  We’ve seen how British riders have shown it can be done; Jonny Bellis, Peter Kennaugh, Andy Fenn this year.  I think the course suits me too next year, quite punchy with a few steep hills so we’ll see what I can do.”

In the meantime, its track work and as he found at the first Revolution, it was tough work getting the track legs back but the boot camp has begun with two new riders, Owain Doull and Ali Slater (both from Hargroves Cycles) and also a former Academy rider George Atkins. They  join other first year riders Joe Kelly, Tom Moses and Jon Mould who like Simon will be getting a second year in the Academy to see if they, like so many before them, can make the step up to becoming professionals.

But before we finish, one final word from Simon who says that if the track hadn’t been built in Manchester, I’d never have taken up cycling which shows just how important facilities like that are for this country to continue to produce the riders who can follow in the footsteps of Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas and Ed Clancy to name but three of so many who are making their mark in the sport.

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