Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) is now the youngest rider at the Tour de France after the departure of Danny van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) on stage 7. Prior to the Tour de France, Yates had never ridden more than eight consecutive days of racing. That could change, if he makes it through this weekend's first venture into the mountains.
Yates, who doesn't seem at all fazed by the jump in riding level at the Tour, is raring to go and take on the Vosges in the coming days. "I'm looking forward to it," he told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 7. "Hopefully I've got good legs and hopefully I can get in a break and do a good ride and hopefully I can get up there and have a go. I've been taking it easier the last couple of days and I'm feeling fresh so I'll give it a go."
When Cyclingnews last spoke to him, he was just about to leave his native England and head for French shores. As the only English rider in the race, he garnered a lot of attention from the media and, while he took it all in his stride, he is enjoying a little more time to himself.
"There's been a lot less media wanting to talk to me and I've had a lot more time to get changed," he laughed. "It's been ok. The crowds are a lot less and the stress is a lot less, because of the sheer amount of people in the UK was 10 deep the whole way around."
The 21-year-old has had something of a baptism of fire, with the riders taking on one of the toughest first weeks in recent memory. Hardest of those was the now infamous cobbled stage 5. Yates had some pavé experience going into the stage, but nothing could prepare him for what he faced. The young rider managed to make it through in one piece, and finished with the likes of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) just over 18 minutes behind stage winner Lars Boom (Belkin).
"I've ridden a couple of cobbled races. In the last couple of years, I've ridden the under-23 Flanders and Roubaix a couple of years ago. I did Gent-Wevelgem earlier this year, but none of them were in the wet, they were all in the dry. It was an experience, I can say that but I don't fancy doing it again soon," said Yates.
A week into the race, Yates is feeling good as he hasn't had to mix it up front too much with little in the way of chances for his Orica-GreenEdge team. While he thinks that could play into his hands, Yates is cautious of getting too far ahead of himself.
All these stages have not been for me and not for the team. I've just been chilling out in the back and staying out of trouble. I might end up being a little fresher than at the end of Paris-Nice or something like that," he said to Cyclingnews. "I've got to take it day-by-day. I might wake up in two days time and I’m absolutely knackered and on my deathbed. I'm going to take it day-by-day and I'm sure we'll see."