Whether around Bury or his balmier adopted home of Girona, don’t expect Adam Yates to be on the morning chaingang. “I never make it on time. It’s always been that way: they want to go out at nine, twelve or one is best for me."
Slow to rise maybe, but fast to break through. The 21-year-old is the talk of the bunch after a run of promising results in his first six months in the WorldTour.
His first big win, at the Tour of Turkey, was partly down to misfortune which befell his twin brother and acting team leader Simon, who fell on the mountain stage to Elmali. Adam, the back-up, was suddenly their main man.
“I saw him fall, I didn’t know if he was all right,” he remembers over the phone from Girona. As Simon copped a broken collarbone, Adam rode to second place. Three days later, he won on Selcuk, attacking like the rest were standing still to nick victory and take control of the Tour of Turkey.
That’s the enterprising, gung ho way Yates races. At the Tour of California, among higher-quality opposition, he attacked Bradley Wiggins and company several times in the mountains on the way to fifth overall.
”I’ve always raced like that,” Yates points out. “I’ve not changed as a rider; now I’m pro, I’m just at a different level. If you don’t have a go, you never know.”
Not that he’s all impulsive youth. Watch the second stage of the 2014 Dauphiné: the final climb up the Col du Béal is a masterclass in careful measurement from the youngster.
Six kilometres from the finish and Yates was 20th, last man in the leading group. But his body language is telling: he is more upright and relaxed than those visibly stem-chewing in front of him.
As Froome and Contador wallop the pace up, Yates moves smoothly past, parking up contenders till he is in the chasing selection, crossing the line eighth. Some raw talent.
It’s easy to view the Yates brothers as a precocious matching pair; certainly, their family connection comes up in every interview. “It gets on my nerves a little, but I’m kind of used to it, we’ve had it since we were kids,” Yates says. “I end up repeating myself. They always ask: ‘How are you different to your brother?’”
They’re both punchy climbers and share a house in Girona (“it’s nice we’re starting this journey together”) but their paths diverted in recent years. Simon went through the British Cycling Academy system, becoming a senior track world champion; Adam’s application for the breeding ground was rejected and he headed to France, learning the ropes with CC Etupes and UVCA Troyes.
“I had no results to warrant a place [on the Academy]. No race as a junior or under-23 suited me, there’s not much you can do,” he says.
That’s the chief reason that Adam reckons his best is emerging now. “In my entire career, I’ve only done two or three races that have suited me: Tour des Pays de Savoie and the Tour de l’Avenir, and I had food poisoning before that first one,” he says.
The difference in the racing dynamic is clearer now. “All last year, you’re doing the lot: going in the early move; mountain stages, getting up there in sprints. It’s a lot more predictable as a pro,” he says.
When Adam finished second in last year’s Tour de l’Avenir, coming second to Simon on one stage into Morzine, offers started pouring in. “GreenEdge were the only ones who set out a plan, it was a pretty easy choice,” he says.
Six months in, it seems to be the right one. No other neo-professional has made the leap with such aplomb. “I’ve got to be happy, haven’t I? I wasn’t expecting to perform this quickly –maybe in a few years I thought,” Yates reflects. It’s hard to imagine he would have had the same level of trust or freedom from a team like Sky, either.
Yates is penciled in for the late summer Canadian WorldTour one-day races and returns to British shores this month for the Otley GP.
But, given his ongoing fine form, is it crazy to wonder whether we’ll be seeing him a few days later, starting his first Tour de France in Leeds?
“It would be nice, but it’d be too much stress. I’ve got time, it’s not like I’m in a rush to ride the Tour. I don’t need to ride it straight away. I wouldn’t really want the role of flat work, I can’t help the sprint guys so much.”