Talkingshop: Avenir Stage winner Simon Yates

Three time a stage winner at the Tour de l’Avenir, probably the highest profile race in the Under 23 Nations Cup, Simon Yates feels he’s ready to turn professional

Simon and his twin brother Adam both finished in the top ten overall, Adam second and Simon tenth. Adam’s second place is the best ride by a British cyclist since the days of Scotland’s Robert Millar finished second to LeMond in the same race. Both the Yates twins certainly showed they deserve a bigger stage to race in and Simon, the British Under 23 Road Race Champion who won two stages in this years Avenier, is ready for that move.


Simon is in his third year at the GB Academy and told VeloUK in an exclusive interview that the French stage race had been quite a big goal. Simon had a break after the nationals and started to build up with a view to do well in the Avenier and the last couple of races like the Tour of Britain and Worlds. When asked how did his victories this year compare to the first one in 2011, Simon replies “the first stage, that was probably my first big win on the road and I still remember it as being a very special victory.”

“I think I have changed as a rider since then. That win was a big bunch gallop and the ones I won last week were on stages that were a lot more lumpy! They had some big old climbs before the finish and the difference I think is I lost some weight and can now get over the climbs a lot better. Despite losing weight, I haven’t lost much speed, so I am still fast enough to win the sprints.”

“The Avenier was very mountainous race. The first three days were fairly flat with a few hills but nothing too serious but from then onwards, the stages all had climbs over 10k and one of the days went over the Col de Madeline which was 15k and on the last day there were two 13k climbs, so very lumpy compared to anything else I have done this year.”

All that climbing played into the hands of the Yates twins as Simon explained. “I was working hard for Adam to try and get him into the yellow jersey by putting pressure on the Spanish. With us being similar type of riders, that is quite handy in situations like that. Once we’d whittled down the size of the group, there were the two of us there but one from each of the other teams. That was an advantage we had and how I got my second victory.”

“I was looking after Adam marking moves and a move just kind of went away and there was a similar thing on the last day. The goal was to set Adam up on the climbs and I’d go as hard as I could and then he’d take over and attack.”

Simon explained the climbs were tough and required gearing of 39 x 27. To prepare for them, Simon had to leave Manchester and head to Europe. “We had the goal of a high finish on the overall at Avenier and as there aren’t the big climbs in Britain like the Avenier, I went to stay with Adam after the RideLondon classic. I was there for ten days and we did some training there and that finished only five days before the Avenir started.”


Simon (left) and Adam Yates at RideLondon.

Speaking of Adam,unlike Simon who was selected for the GB Academy, Adam has very much slipped under the radar of GB and instead has had to go abroad to try and get a pro team contract. And for the first time in a major event, Adam outshone, on the overall at least, his more well known brother who already has rainbow stripes after Simon’s win on the track in the Worlds Points race.

Simon is extremely happy for Adam saying “I don’t think he’s ever had the opportunity to shine even before the academy. On the talent team, he was selected after me and with the OPD we got on as second year riders but he wasn’t selected for the Academy. I think it’s made him more determined than anything to prove people wrong.”

“I’ve known he’s been good enough for a long time and now he’s finally shown it on an international stage.”

The highlight for many was the 1-2 by Simon and Adam during the Avenier and the rider who was first across the line says he doesn’t think it has sunk in yet. “It was a massive win really. A joint win. I can’t believe we did that and we could not have asked for more as everything just fell into place”.

Asked whether he has more of a sprint than Adam, Simon replied  “because he (Adam) hasn’t been on the academy, he didn’t do the track. If you’re not on the programme, the track is kind of a dead end as you can’t be selected from the outside so he fully committed to the road. I think because of that, he lost a little speed.”

“It’s still fast but with me still doing more track, I think that is where I get my better sprint from. You look at the last few days of the Avenier, I think he was out climbing me which I feel shows how we have benefited from the different environments we are in; me on the track and him in France near the mountains.”

Time to move up
After many top 10 performances in the Nations Cup, something that has helped GB into second place in the Nations Cup, Simon has shown he is clearly one of the world’s best. Asked if he feels he is ready to turn pro, the answer is yes.


World champion – Simon Yates.

“I definitely want to move away from the Academy if I don’t turn pro now and try and kick start my career. A lot of the pro teams don’t look at the academy as much as they did when it was in Italy but hopefully these results will have opened the eyes of the pro teams and hopefully I can move on this year.”

There has been speculation of Simon and Adam being offered contracts but Simon said he’s not had any firm offers. “It isn’t really the case that the academy is a feeder team to Sky. The academy is more for the track. Adams club is linked to FDJ but nothing is a done deal yet, far from it.”

Simon added that there were no team managers in France at Avenier falling over each other to get his signature.”Hopefully they will be in contact!” he adds. Simon showed in the RideLondon Classic that he was able to race at senior level. I watched as he got in a small three man move with Garmin’s Jack Bauer and he matched the Kiwi pedal stroke for pedal stroke as they tried to escape the peloton. His brother Adam too was also in a move behind.

Talking about the London race, Simon explained “I wasn’t going great before that race after quite a few hard weeks leading up to it and never rested up before it. I still felt strong and always wanted to show my face at the front at some point.”

“It is just a shame the climbs are so far from the end. I wouldn’t say I was comfortable, it was never easy but I was okay stepping up a level racing with the pros and if I hadn’t been then perhaps I wouldn’t be ready yet. I certainly feel strong enough to race at that level and if I do turn pro next season, it should be good.”


Simon Yates in the move at the Ryedale Classic in July.

Simon has had to also learn more about himself since his coach at the academy Chris Newton moved onto to coach the women in the team. “I have sort of been doing my own thing with Keith Lamberts help. We talk every day or so and run through what I think I need to do and he’ll give me some advice and that’s working quite well.”

“Doing it this way has been good in that it’s given me some freedom and I’ve had to think about my training and how it can help make me a better rider. I think more about what I need and the way I should do it rather than the whole team. Keith is a great with this and helps out where he can.”

Simon’s next goal is the Tour of Britain which he thinks he’s doing and then after that, it will be straight into the Worlds. “The Tour of Britain is going to be a hard race and comes at the perfect time” says Simon. “We have enough days after the Tour of Britain to rest up before the Worlds with a full taper”.

Post road season, and being the World Points Champion, Simon is not sure he’ll be racing the track. “If I am still with the Academy, I’d do it as I do enjoy the track, it’s what I have grown up doing and still love. But if I want to further my career on the road, perhaps I will need to step away from it a bit more.”

Simon also explained that unlike some in the Academy, he doesn’t have to go into a full track mode for his events. “Once I finish with the track, I stop thinking about it where as others guys in the academy still carry on doing stuff on it and for me personally, my ways works for me”

“I get a lot of strength from the road and that helps with the track as I can push the bigger gears and for my events, you don’t really need that top end track work. For what I do I, I don’t really need to go into full track mode whereas the other guys events are so fast, you can’t do both really. You have to be committed to either.”

Who knows, if all goes well in Italy (Worlds), and the Tour of Britain, Simon may well yet attract offers to ride for a pro team in 2014. His performances so far this year certainly look like they deserve a chance at some pro racing … thanks Simon for his chat.

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