His campaign was bookended by defeats at the hands of the Tour de France champion but he took comfort in the fact he was in the mix for victories from his first race to his last.
Besides, stepping onto a Monument podium for the first time in his career, and becoming only the second British rider to do so at Il Lombardia after Tom Simpson, there was plenty to smile about about for the 29-year-old.
"Third is a pretty good result considering I was racing full gas since the start of the year in February in the UAE, so to go all season with quite good consistency, I’m pretty happy with that," Yates told reporters in Bergamo.
"It’s not a win, but at the end of the day I’ve been consistent throughout the year."
Yates placed third in Bergamo, leading a select group across the line 51 seconds in arrears of the winner Tadej Pogacar and runner-up Fausto Masnada. He had formed part of that group after Pogacar attacked halfway up the Passo di Ganda with 35km still to cover and, as the Slovenian eased clear, he attacked to try and close the gap, but couldn’t get away.
"I was thinking, ‘oof, this is going to hurt’," Yates said of the moment Pogacar went clear. "I tried to make one move, and we didn’t get across, so that was it.
"I was suffering already. It wasn’t just the climbs but also the descents. It was a really technical course this year and you had to always be in position to make sure you didn’t get caught out, and in the end that takes a lot out of you. We got to the climb and everyone was suffering quite a lot. I tried to go across but in the end the legs weren’t there."
Following the Passo di Ganda and the subsequent descent, Yates found himself in a disorganised chase group on the run-in to Bergamo, where any hope of victory evaporated as Pogacar and Masnada sailed up the road.
Yates even appeared to lose any hope of the podium when he and Primoz Roglic were dropped under pressure from Romain Bardet on the steep late haul up to Bergamo’s old town. However, they clawed their way back on the short descent and used that momentum to ping through in the home straight, with Yates beating Roglic and a host of fast finishers like Alejandro Valverde and Julian Alaphilippe.
"In the end, it was a bit of luck. Sometimes you need a bit of luck and today was the day," Yates said.
"I was dropped with Primoz on the last climb but we came back with 400-500 metres to go and managed to get a good run-in. It’s nice to have a bit of luck and I’m just happy to finish the season well."
In between UAE and Lombardia, Yates has indeed enjoyed a fine debut season with Ineos Grenadiers after switching from Team BikeExchange. He won the Volta a Catalunya and placed fourth at Itzulia Basque Country in the opening phase of the campaign and returned in the summer to grab a top-10 in the Olympics road race and place fourth overall at the Vuelta a España, the join best Grand Tour result of his career.
In the build-up to Il Lombardia he was fourth at last weekend’s Giro dell’Emilia and second at Milano-Torino in midweek, and now ends his season on the podium.
"I’ve had my ups and my downs, like everyone else this year," he said. "For sure there are things to work on and improve next year, but we’ll think about that in a few weeks in the off-season."
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