Simon and Adam Yates reunited for Orica-Scott's tilt at Vuelta a Espana
Brothers join forces at a Grand Tour for first time since 2015
Come August and the Vuelta a España, deep into the second half of the season, only a handful of teams have the strength in depth to line up with two general classification leaders for the final Grand Tour of the season. But for this year's race, Orica-Scott have bucked the trend with a vengeance and will be present on the start line in Nimes on Saturday with no fewer than three leaders.
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Colombian Esteban Chaves, third in last year's Vuelta, will join Adam and Simon Yates in a three-pronged attack on the overall classification that arguably makes Orica-Scott's the strongest line-up of any of the teams in the Vuelta.
Like Chaves, Simon Yates has some previous in Spain, finishing sixth overall last year, when he also claimed a stage win in the opening week on a blisteringly hot trek through the hills of Galicia. Adam Yates, meanwhile, raced and completed the Vuelta back in 2014, in his first Grand Tour appearance.
For the Yates brothers, the 2017 Vuelta is their first Grand Tour together since the 2015 Tour de France. In addition to considerable success elsewhere, they have since won the best young rider classification at the Tour in successive years. And while Simon Yates shone in the Vuelta last year, Adam took ninth overall in the Giro d'Italia in May, despite losing a lot of time in one bad crash at the foot of the Blockhaus.
This will also mark the first time that the Yates brothers have tackled two Grand Tours in one season and for Simon Yates, it's his first race since the Tour in July.
"I had some down time and enjoyed myself a bit after France because before the Tour it was full on and you don't get much time to enjoy the small things," Simon Yates told Cyclingnews on Thursday morning in Nimes.
"Then I got back into training, in Girona rather than Andorra, so I could do some heat adaption because the Vuelta always has very hot weather. I was up in Andorra for a very long spell before the Tour, so the base condition should be there."
As Simon Yates points out, with the first mountains arriving in Andorra on stage 3, the overall contenders should have an early indication of how solid their underlying form really is.
"I think we'll know in the early tough stages how I'm going and we have two other guys [Chaves and Adam Yates] who are fresher or better prepared than me," Simon Yates said. "So that does depend on how my legs are. But as a team, either way, we're going to do quite well."
Although Simon Yates recognises that it will be a special experience to race again with Adam in a Grand Tour, he points out that they had enjoyed plenty of success on their own.
"I think we've done okay racing apart. Our results show that, and even two years ago we already had a leadership role in the team although we were looking for stages. So that hasn't changed," said Yates, who will share a room with his brother on the Vuelta.
"I always like racing with my bro more just because of messing round together off the bike, we can have a good time. Once you get into the race itself, it's not so different from one person to the next."
Trying to hit two peaks of form so close together, in the Tour and the Vuelta, is, however, wholly uncharted terrain for Simon Yates.
"I've done the early part of the year and the end of the year, but it's really not that long after the Tour. But that's meant I've not had to work so hard, it's been more about keeping in shape and keeping things ticking over," he said.
"So you can look at it two ways and at the end of the Tour I was tired, but I wasn't on my knees, whereas other years I have been and wouldn't even think about the Vuelta. So that should help."
In terms of his personal objectives, Simon says the team will see how things work out in Andorra and then take it from there.
"I think so, that's the best way to look at it. I've never tried to peak for this long, so it's all new and we don't know how my body's going to react. Hopefully it will be in a positive way."
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Adam Yates ready after post-Giro break
After a post-Giro break, Adam Yates' Vuelta build-up began with the Prueba Vilafranca one-day race in late July, where he finished ninth after a blistering late attack, and continued at the Tour de Pologne, where he finished fifth overall and placed second on the final stage.
"I felt pretty good, it was my first WorldTour race in a while. I've been training well too, so I can't wait to get to the start of the racing," he said.
Adam Yates' previous Vuelta experience was his Grand Tour debut in 2014, when he later discovered he had been suffering from post-concussion fatigue after a crash at the Clasica San Sebastian. On that occasion, while his training had gone well, Yates was, by his own admission, "creeping" at the Vuelta itself.
This time round Yates has much higher hopes.
"With the team we've got here, we can do a good Vuelta. I don't really want to put a number on it, but if we can get on the podium, that'd be great, whether it's me, or Simon or Esteban, that'd be a great result," he said.
"It's the first time I've done two Grand Tours in a year, so it's a bit of an unknown for me. Yeah, I've been to Poland, done good training, I can tell you all this. But when you get out and race, it's a different story."
"Racing with his brother, Adam Yates said, is good “because we've barely got to do it this year, which wasn't the original idea. We haven't been in the same event since the Tour of Valencia in February. It's good fun to race with him, and he's been good in training, he's just come off the Tour so he might be a little bit tired, but he should do a good result as well.
"We've got three cards to play, so let's get stuck in and look for some good results."
Racing with Esteban Chaves
Adam Yates has nothing but praise for Chaves, who endured a difficult Tour de France after an injury-blighted season.
"When he's going well, he's one of the best bike riders in the world. It'd be stupid not to keep him as a protected rider and obviously he had the injury early on this year, which is why he wasn't super at the Tour, but it's all progression, you have to wait it out and get back up to the fitness and form that you had in the past," Yates said.
"These things take time, he's had a good Tour in that he didn't get sick or crash, so he's another card we can play, especially in the third week. How many teams have three guys that can potentially be top ten, or even, depending on how much everybody else is going, top five?"
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.