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Adam Yates clinches biggest stage race victory of career in Volta a Catalunya

BARCELONA SPAIN MARCH 28 Podium Adam Yates of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers Green Leader Jersey Celebration during the 100th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2021 Stage 7 a 133km stage from Barcelona to Barcelona Mask Covid safety measures Trophy VoltaCatalunya100 on March 28 2021 in Barcelona Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) celebrates his overall victory at the Volta a Catalunya (Image credit: Getty Images)

Adam Yates brought what is arguably the biggest victory of his career safely home on Sunday in the Volta a Catalunya as Ineos Grenadiers simultaneously celebrated a landmark triumph for the British team.

Yates has won races as important as the UAE Tour in 2020 and the 2015 Clásica San Sebastian, as well as finishing fourth overall as best young rider at the 2016 Tour de France.

But after seven years at Mitchelton-Scott (now Team BikeExchange), his win in the Volta a Catalunya, at the head of Ineos Grenadiers, secures their first-ever poodium sweep in a single stage race – alongside teammates Richie Porte and Geraint Thoma – and is the best of starts possible for Yates in his new squad.

Yates never looked less than comfortable in the week-long stage race, where his excellent seventh place in the Banyoles stage two time trial was followed up by a victory and the lead at Vallter 2000’s summit finish 24 hours later.

Yates had already won at Vallter in 2019, of course, en route to a second place behind Miguel Ángel López, then with Astana, in Barcelona four days later.

But this time round, the Briton secured not only the leader’s jersey but from there on he also benefited from the backing of one of Ineos Grenadiers most powerful line-ups in a week-long stage race in years, to support him all the way through the rest of the race.

“1-2-3 on the final podium is a perfect team performance, we had set out with big ambitions but no expectations of that,” Yates said afterwards.

“The guys worked really hard,  we controlled the race from start to finish, and to finish with two teammates beside you on the podium is amazing.”

“Two years ago, I was close to winning, and it’s really good to go one step higher. I did well recently in UAE” – where he finished second overall – “and it’s great to able to continue that way into Catalunya.”

Looking back at the race, Yates said his toughest day “was the second stage in the Pyrenees, there were three really climbs, an hour’s climbing each. It was a tough day in general.

“But we rode really well as a team, and there’s not much more to say when everything goes right and you manage to nail it.”

Asked how it had felt to race alongside his brother, Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), for the first time in opposing teams since they turned pro, Yates said “he wasn’t at 100 per cent, so it wasn’t a fair competition. He’s going to come good, so we’ll see what happens then.” Simon, a winner himself in the Volta’s final stage in Montjuic a few years back, finished ninth overall.

Having become the first Briton to conquer the Volta a Catalunya in 36 years, Yates will now move on to Itzulia in eight days time, a race where he took a fine stage win two years ago after finishing second in Catalunya.

“I’ve got a week off to recover, but then we’ll go again and hopefully I’ll have a similar performance there,” Yates concluded. But regardless of what happens, the centenary edition of the Volta a Catalunya is safely in the bag.

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.