Yates twins hope to join forces in a pro team
Brits leaving their mark on the Tour de l'Avenir
Better than a photo finish, Thursday's stage in the Tour de l'Avenir delivered a family photo. The first two riders having crossed the line in Morzine, in the Alps, are not only teammates from Great Britain, but brothers, and more exactly twin brothers. Simon Yates won ahead of brother Adam and France's Alexis Gougeard in a three-man sprint. The former took a second win in the "little Tour de France" two years after his first victory, while the latter moved up into the second position overall, with 1:03 to Spain's Ruben Fernandez.
For the brothers, aged 21, Tour de l'Avenir cannot have a better name - The Race of the Future - given they are both looking for a professional offer for 2014.
"When I won my first stage on the race in 2011, it was a first big victory," Simon told Cyclingnews after the finish. "Today is different as I hope this victory will help me to get a contract. Three years ago I was very fast because I used to race more on the track. Now I am three kilos lighter and I am stronger in the mountains. I feel ready to do more..."
Some reports have prematurely linked Simon to Team Sky and Adam to FDJ.fr but Cyclingnews understands they are yet to start negotiations with any pro team. Certainly one brother rides for British Academy, one of Sky's feeder teams, and the other one is part of French club CC Etupes, which nurtured FDJ's big talent Thibaut Pinot. But beyond this association of ideas there are obviously no concrete talks between the riders and pro squads.
The Yates' still need to show themselves in the next races such as the Tour of Britain and World Championships, unless Adam on Saturday becomes the first British rider to make Tour de l'Avenir's final podium since Robert Millar in 1982.
It seems Team Sky hasn’t been expecting to sign any neo-professional next year after having picked up Britain's Josh Edmondson and Americans' Ian Boswell and Joe Dombrowski in 2013. But Yates' entourage recalls Edmondson got his ticket very late after he claimed good results in the summer.
Edmondson and Adam Yates have some common ground because they have been denied a spot at the British Academy. The former had to compete two years with an Italian team, the latter went to East of France in 2012, racing for UVCA Troyes and then CC Etupes.
"Some people at the Academy said I wasn't strong enough," said Yates.
Ironically he is now the best climber among the British Under-23 and his national federation is pushing him to be part of the Tour of Britain. Meanwhile his French club wants him to shine in a French Cup event, insisting "nobody else knew Adam and invested in him last winter". The calendar’s issue will be sorted out early next week.
The two brothers parting ways at the end of 2011 was not a trauma, they say. They had understandably an entwined life, though. They started cycling together, aged 10, following their father on the track. They used to share the same room and even the same bed for many years, as their house in Bury, north Manchester, was pretty confined.
In the junior ranks they used to attack one after the other and combined their tactics against the bunch. Their last double before the Tour de l’Avenir was in GP Colne, an English criterium, in 2008. Even now they try to find each other when they are in a breakaway or a leading group in the mountains.
They have similar characteristics, even if Simon who recently kept riding on the track has a faster sprint than Adam, who is now based near the Ballon d'Alsace, who does better in the long hills.
However the twin brothers have showed in the past two years they can ride side by side and get their own results. Simon was third in the Côte Picarde, an U23 Nations’ Cup round, and earned top 10’s overall in international stage races An Post Ras, Thüringen Rundfahrt and Czech Cycling Tour. For his part Adam performed well in one-day events - 12th in U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 8th in Paris-Troyes, 16th in the Ride London Classic.
"To be professionals together in the same team would be great," smiled Simon.
The Yates' are pretty confident for the future. The Tour de l'Avenir stage winner says he will probably leave British Cycling Academy in 2014 if he doesn't turn pro with a strong team, to try and kick-start his career. In the same situation, Adam might extend with CC Etupes and improve again within his last season as U23.
The fits of laughter coming out their hotel room confirms that they don't feel any negative pressure and that they are ready to join forces again on the last two stages of the Tour de l'Avenir. That would help to change the course of their fate, hopefully sign together with a good team and bring to professional cycling the invigorating flavour of twin brothers.
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By Josh Croxton