Hot on the heels of his brother Adam's successful Tour de France, Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) claimed a classy lone triumph for himself during stage 6 of the Vuelta a Espana that also moves him up to 10th overall.
Team Sky's very recent team time trial win notwithstanding, Yates' victory is the first for Great Britain since 2012, when Steve Cummings also claimed a solo win in the nearby city of Ferrol.
Whilst Cummings attacked on the flatter roads going into the Galician seaport, Yates' move came on relentlessly undulating terrain and on a day of extreme heat, with temperatures soaring into the high 30s.
Orica-BikeExchange had played their cards perfectly, softening up the opposition and shedding potential rivals on the second category Alto de Alenza in the final two thirds of the stage.
Movistar proceeded to work furiously to bring back the day’s breakaway, with Yates waiting in the wings. Then, just as last survivor Matthias Frank (IAM Cycling) had all but hove into view, rather than wait for the sprint with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as most of their rivals would have been expecting, the Spanish squad cleverly fired Dani Moreno up the road to see what Valverde's teammate could do.
However, when Yates blasted out of the pack, first passing Moreno and then shooting past Frank some 3.5 kilometres from the line, it was too late - and Yates had too much power - for Movistar to respond.
Simon Yates had not raced the Tour de France this year because of a positive test in Paris-Nice for terbutaline that earned him a reduced four-month ban. Yates, therefore, returned to action in Spain late in July, winning the Prueba Villafranca, before going on to place seventh at the Clasica San Sebastian and fourth at the Vuelta a Burgos in the build-up to this Vuelta.
Asked if this victory, the biggest of his three-year career to date, had in some way saved his season, Yates responded, "Saved it? I don't know... I'm very happy to come back and win like this. I worked extremely hard. Now I'd like to enjoy this moment."
Nor did he seem surprised to be able to race so successfully so soon after a difficult summer. "I trained really hard during this period. I didn't really lose anything if I'm honest. I didn't expect anything else."
He explained that the team's strategy was "to make the race as hard as possible.The roads around here are very technical and twisty, in bad condition, and if the race is hard, it makes for a hard race for those at the back. We wanted to surprise a few teams, which I think we did pretty well, and then in the final I chose my moment to attack, and managed to keep it going."
Asked to explain how he had managed, at just 24, to outwit far more experienced riders, Yates said, "I don't know…instinct. In the final, you could see a lot of the guys were tired and that was because of what we did in the beginning. I just wanted to make the most of my opportunities. Once I saw I had the gap, I wanted to capitalize on that move and I did everything to stay clear."
In terms of how Orica-Bike Exchange had played out the strategy between himself and Esteban Chaves, fifth overall and the team's GC leader, Yates explained, "During the stage we had a plan in the beginning, and once a bit of a selection had been made and we were in the final stages of the race, Esteban told me that I can win the stage and that it was a good stage for me. It means a lot when the team leader encourages you to take your chance. He's a great guy, we have a great relationship, and I just wanted to make the most of it."
Yates let out a roar of satisfaction when he crossed the line, but he said this was nothing new. "I'm just extremely happy. I do that for any race. I worked extremely hard, and I think this is just the reward that I deserve from the hard work."
Asked about how he compared his performances with his brother’s recent racing, Simon Yates replied, "There's no reason to be frustrated when my brother has success. I don't know why everybody asks this question. I'm always happy when he does well and wins bike races. I've got nothing but happiness for him.
"I know I have the talent to win and I've been doing this for a long time and I've managed to be patient. I'm not stressed or worried about my results in the past. If you ask me, I have had some good results for a young guy. I'm just happy to continue this progression."
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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.
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