Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) confirmed his potential as a serious stage race contender as he completed a strong week at the Critérium du Dauphiné. Yates rode himself into fifth place overall and claimed victory in the young rider’s classification, holding off Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale).
"Had I been promised to finish fifth overall at the start of the week, I would have signed for it," said Yates. "It wasn't just a battle against Bardet for the white jersey. I wanted to beat as many guys as I could on GC, even Rui Costa but that didn't work out. I'm happy with fifth place."
Yates took over the young rider’s classification on stage six when the current holder Bardet crashed on a wet descent. Bardet was able to close back in on Yates in the final two stages but the 22-year-old held off the Frenchman, who finished sixth in last year’s Tour de France, with an impressive performance on the final day.
Following Chris Froome’s (Team Sky) late attack with less than three kilometres remaining, the GC favourites struggled to chase him down. Yates was not immediately able to react but he paced himself well and, along with Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), caught race leader Tejay van Garderen (BMC). Not put off by the illustrious company, Yates slipped away in the final metres to claim second on the day. The team were impressed by the young rider’s performance.
"The priority was to wait as long as possible. To sit around the big boys, particularly Bardet to protect the white jersey," said directeur sportif Lorenzo Lapage. "The team took him to a good position every time he needed so that was great and then he had the legs to follow the big riders and in the end he was attacking them."
In only his second year as a professional rider, Orica-GreenEdge are keen to look after Yates and being an overall contender was not in the original plan. His performance meant that the plan had to be thrown out of the window.
"We said before the race that coming here and getting a good result in the team time trial and going for a stage win was the priority," said Lapage. "Actually, until the final two days we didn’t say to Simon to go for the overall, we wanted to keep the pressure off.
"But getting fifth at 22 years of age at the Dauphiné is not something everyone can do, so we of course had to change the plan."
Yates is expected to ride the Tour de France for the second time this July, with his brother Adam making his debut. Yates was a surprise call-up to the Orica-GreenEdge team last season but he performed well, going on the attack in the in the opening week before the team pulled him from the race on the second rest day. Along with Colombian Esteban Chaves, the Yates brothers form part of Orica-GreenEdge’s future GC ambitions.