Orica-GreenEdge were put through the mill in the opening week of the Tour de France, losing Simon Gerrans, Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini in quick succession. They had to soft pedal through their favoured stage, the team time trial, with only six riders – or five and a half as a struggling Michael Matthews pointed out. Things started to take a turn for the better when the race hit the mountains where they were able to let lose the Yates brothers, Adam and Simon.
“We had some really bad luck in the first week, we lost some amazing guys. We just did what we could, me and Simon did what we could in the last two weeks,” Adam told Cyclingnews after the race finished in Paris on Sunday evening.
“It was hard, especially when it’s those guys. They’re normally the guys that win all the races for us. It was definitely a major loss but we worked through it and the team never lost their motivation or morale.”
Adam made his race debut at this year’s race, while Simon was competing in his second edition after a late call-up in 2014. Simon made a big impression at the race last year but was pulled out on the opening rest day so as not to push him too far. This year the team allowed him and his brother an opportunity to ride all the way to Paris.
“I think that I’ve been able to take a lot from last year that I’ve been able to use it this year,” Simon told Cyclingnews. “It’s the Tour de France, it’s the hardest race we do all year. There’s a lot of suffering and I don’t think you learn to suffer, it’s just one of those things. Luckily I have a whole year to recover from it.”
The Yates brothers are part of Orica-GreenEdge’s future GC hopefuls, and they didn’t disappoint in France. The pair were allowed the freedom to see how they fared, riding an aggressive strategy and getting into a number of breaks. Simon struggled in the Pyrenees but by the time the race reached the iconic Alpe d’Huez he had the measure of several of the favourites, beating the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador up the climb.
“I got sick for a good week or so, I’ve only really started to come back around in the last couple of days. I’m still in pain from the effort so I don’t really know. I don’t think I was able to fully test myself as much as I would have liked to but I’m 22 so I’ve still got a few years ahead of me ,” he said after finishing 11th on Alpe d’Huez.
“It’s good because I did the recon for this climb and my brother wasn’t able to. I think it showed at the end. He really tried to dig deep and hold onto the favourites and, especially with the wind there was a big headwind up there, once he was dropped he was on his own, it takes its toll, whereas because I did the recon I knew the climb a bit more. I knew just to save it until the end.”
After hanging with the group of favourites up Alpe d’Huez, Adam would eventually drop to 22nd on the day. It is his performance at the start of the second week that impresses most with a seventh place on the first mountain stage to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, finishing just over two minutes down on Chris Froome, who won stage. He also began the Alps well with a 10th place finish on Pra Loup.
“It’s been a great experience all the way through. It was stressful in the first few stages but in general it’s been nice,” said Adam. “I don’t really have a favourite moment but, for me, my best performance was on the first mountain stage where I came seventh. I went up against the big guys and I didn’t lose too much time so I guess I can be pretty happy with that.”
There’s not much time for either of the Yates brothers to sit back and absorb their success, with the Clásica San Sebastian this Saturday. Adam was on for a strong finish after making it into the race-winning move but came down in a crash on the descent off the headland with 3.5km to go.
“I fly out on Wednesday, so not much time to rest,” said Adam. “Last year I would have come top 5 but I crashed and knocked myself out. Hopefully that won’t happen this time.”