If breaking a collarbone really is a rite of passage for a cyclist, then 21-year-old Simon Yates has surely come of age.
The unfortunate Orica-GreenEdge protégé went from protected rider status on the third stage of the Tour of Turkey, to protecting his damaged left shoulder, after a snapped chain dumped him on the tarmac. Instinct kicked in, plus a healthy dose of adrenalin: he remounted and soldiered on before succumbing to the inevitable a few miles further on.
“It was a matter of saving my pennies until the first mountains really, and I didn’t even get there,” he says ruefully, having just returned from a first ride back out on the open road since the crash and subsequent operation. “It was a bit painful over the potholes, but other than that, it was all right.”
Simon’s misfortune turned out to be his twin brother’s good luck. Adam Yates went on to win the Turkish race by just five seconds from Estonian Rein Taaramäe. Protected rider status passed from one sibling to another. The equally talented Adam took full advantage.
Massive disappointment, then, for the injured party, tempered by familial pride five days later. Once reunited back at their training base in Girona, Simon will be half-wheeling his brother like crazy, no doubt…
“He’s terrible for it. He reckons I’m the culprit, but I don’t think I am. We do push each other hard, though.”
If brothers are bad, twins take it up a notch, obviously. In the meantime, Simon gets to watch his brother racing intelligently again at the Tour of California.
“Turkey and California are races I could have done well in, but looking on the positive side, I am having a break now and I can rebuild properly for the end of the year.”
The carefully mapped-out race programme has been shuffled to allow a steady recovery to race fitness, hopefully starting at Bayern-Rundfahrt at the end of the month.
Yates first captured the public’s attention after storming to the summit of Haytor in last year’s Tour of Britain, ahead of the like of Wiggins, Quintana and Dan Martin. Canny cycling fans will have noticed both Yates brothers two weeks earlier, at the Tour de l’Avenir – the biggest race on the calendar at under-23 level – Simon taking two stages and Adam second overall.
The names of former winners tell the story of l’Avenir: Zoetemelk, LeMond, Indurain, Fignon, Quintana. The list goes on.
Talent scouts descend on France each August in search of up-and-comers. Orica-GreenEdge landed the star prizes. “Really, it started to happen after the Tour de l’Avenir,” says Simon. “It’s late in the year, though, so a lot of the teams have already signed up most of their riders. They are looking for a few young guys to fill slots the following year.”
Ah, the perennial hunt for roster-fillers at a bargain price… But Orica have not fobbed off the starry-eyed youngsters with big talk, then left them to rot in some back-of-beyond races. The Yates brothers have a decent programme, with good support when they need it – when the road goes up, mostly.
And with good food afterwards, of course, courtesy of the team chef. “Our man is Nicki, he’s from Denmark. He knows all our requirements: everything he puts out is nutritious and tastes great – he cooks fantastic food. If anything, I come back a bit heavier because it’s so good I end up eating too much.”
Scandinavian chefs seem to be the must-have accessory for any serious cycling team now: Hannah at Tinkoff-Saxo, Søren at Sky, Kim at Trek, and now Nicki at Orica. First Scandi Noir, now Scandi cooking. Where will it end?
Simon flies back to Girona this week, to get back in the swing of training, build up to his next race with some decent miles in the sunshine, and, no doubt, enjoy a bit of half-wheeling his brother when the opportunity arises.
Well, wouldn’t you?