Tour de France Grand Départ surreal for Simon Yates

Orica-GreenEdge rider hopes to improve as race develops

Just over a week after Simon Yates returned to the UK for the British National Championships, he leaves in the midst of his first Grand Tour. Yates was a late addition to Orica-GreenEdge’s Tour de France team and is the only English rider in the race’s peloton.

The 21-year-old from Bury has been a very popular man with the huge crowds that have turned out to cheer on the riders over the past three days. “[It’s been] absolutely surreal. Especially yesterday, with it being pretty close to home, there was a lot of support out on the road for me,” Yates told Cyclingnews.

“I just appreciated it so much and it really does spur you on. I was suffering up these climbs and I could hear people shouting my name. Then I thought ‘ah, I can’t let them down, I need to keep going.’"

Yates’ team manager Matt White described the scenes on stage 2 as being like the top of Alpe d’Huez nine times over. A wall of noise has greeted the peloton wherever it has gone. The noise has been so loud that the riders have often struggled to hear their directeurs sportifs in their radio earpieces.

“I had it (his race radio) turned up to almost max and I could only just about hear it,” Yates laughed. “I think I’m still a bit deaf from the day before and I think it was a bit of a knock-on effect. The crowds have been phenomenal, 10 deep all the way around.”

Mixed emotions

While the huge crowds and resounding support has left Yates on a bit of a high, he waves goodbye to England with a tinge of disappointment. Despite riding his first Grand Tour after only turning professional at the beginning of this season, Yates has put pressure on himself to match his more seasoned rivals.

“I wish I’d been up there in the final yesterday to help Alba [Michael Albasini] and the rest of the boys,” Yates said. “I think I was expecting too much of myself. This is the Tour de France, it’s the biggest race of the year so I can’t expect to just come in and be ripping up stages.”

Yates will fly out of London on Monday night and head to the team’s hotel in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, ready for the fourth stage. Aside from the slight disappointment on Sunday, it’s been a good start for Yates, but he will enter the unknown before at the weekend and from there, every day will be a bonus for him.

“The longest race I’ve done is eight days,” he explained. “I’ve never raced that far so I don’t know how the body is going to react or the body is going to feel. I’m just taking it day-by-day when we get there and I hope to do a good job for the boys.”

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