Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) got the surprise of his life earlier this week when his team manager Matt White called to inform him that he had made this year’s Tour de France team. Originally Yates had been pencilled in to ride the Tour de Pologne - which begins on August 3 - but got the good news after returning to the UK for the British national championships last weekend.
“It was a bit of a random phone call,” Yates laughed, clearly still on a high from making the team. “If anything, I though it was going to be talking about going to the Tour of Poland, which is like a month away. It was a big surprise and I’m just looking forward to it.”
Yates has not long come back from the broken collarbone that he suffered at the Tour of Turkey in April. He rode the Tour de Slovenie, at the end of June, before finishing third at the national championships on Sunday behind Sky pairing Peter Kennaugh and Ben Swift. The neo-pro said that the time off may be a blessing in disguise but brushed aside any idea that he may try for his own stage success so early on in his Tour de France career.
“I’m just here purely to help Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews. We’re targeting the medium mountain days where a sprinter who can climb will get to the finish. Hopefully I can play a big part in that terrain,” Yates told the press after being introduced to the huge crowds in Leeds. “If the opportunity is there then I’ll take it. But the guys that we’ve got here are the best in the world at doing these hilly sprints. I’m just here to help those guys.”
The 21-year-old barely had time to let the news sink in before he was making his way to the Tour’s team presentation on Thursday. Yates turned professional with Orica-GreenEdge at the beginning of last season, after a solid 2013. The strong season saw him become world points champion on the track and took stages at the Tour de l’Avenir and the Tour of Britain.
Along with his twin brother Adam, Simon is seen as a future general classification rider for races such as the Tour. This season was all about developing as a rider, but Yates has obviously impressed his new employers and the marketing opportunities of having a British rider in the race was too good to pass up for the team.
“I’m just in shock really,” said Yates. “From the start of the year I wasn’t even a reserve for the Tour de France. To come to the biggest race that we do all year, especially coming to England, is a huge opportunity.
Yates is one of four British riders at the race, including defending champion Chris Froome, but is the only English rider to make the start in Leeds. He is from just over the Pennines in Bury, on the outskirts of Manchester. He spends most of his time in Girona, but had been at home with his parents when he received the call from White. While most riders were jetting in from all over Europe, Yates’ journey to the Tour de France grand depart was a little less glamorous.
“My parents dropped me off, because I was back for the nationals. I was having a bit of a break from my base in Girona, so they just dropped me off. I just came from around the corner, as you do.”