Sir Chris Hoy hails Yates’ Vuelta a Espana victory

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It’s been an unbelievable day – Simon Yates on Vuelta a Espana win

Sir Chris Hoy says Simon Yates’ Vuelta a Espana victory is “incredible”, and that British cycling fans must be “pinching themselves”.

The win saw a clean sweep of British victories in this year’s Grand Tours.

“You have to pinch yourself as a cycling fan looking back 10-15 years ago to have one Grand Tour winner in all of history that was a pipe dream.

“Now we’ve got three in one year, it’s quite incredible,” the six-time Olympic champion said.

The 26-year-old’s triumph in Madrid on Sunday means British riders have won nine of the past 20 Grand Tours.

In winning the Vuelta a Espana, Yates crowned a stunning year for British cycling that has now seen an unprecedented British Grand Tour slam in the wake of Chris Froome’s Giro d’Italia win and Geraint Thomas’s Tour de France victory.

As Yates arrived in Madrid on Sunday’s largely processional stage his Mitchelton-Scott team-mate and twin brother, Adam, was by his side.

“For Simon and Adam Yates, what an incredible journey it’s been,” Hoy told BBC 5 live Breakfast.

“Both were track riders in the British team and Simon was a World points race champion in 2013, and it shows the young riders now, especially the young track endurance riders that there’s a pathway, and they can follow in the footsteps of the likes of Geraint Thomas, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Simon Yates and see it’s not a pipedream, it’s a reality if you work hard and have the talent.”


Yates’ triumph on Sunday means British riders have won nine of the past 20 Grand Tours

British Cycling’s Performance Director Stephen Park also hailed the recent domination from Britain’s cyclists, following a run that started when Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first to win one with victory in the 2012 Tour de France.

“I think the work being done by the Great Britain team programmes in their early years is helping to form those riders,” Park said.

“There’s no doubt a lot of that work has gone on in years gone by – Simon Yates being part of the Great Britain cycling team from 2010-2014 – and working with a number of those riders, some of whom have been through the GB team – Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Sir Bradley Wiggins – so it’s about putting in place those foundations.

“But, ultimately, it’s a full team effort and not just everything British Cycling does.

“For sure, it’s everything their professional teams do, but ultimately the huge commitment those riders put in themselves for a significant amount of time, year after year.

“Simon started in the British Cycling team in 2010, so for eight years he’s been chasing this particular dream of winning a Grand Tour.”

Only twice before have riders from the same country won all three races in the same season, but this is the first time it has been done by different cyclists.

Belgium’s Eddy Merckx completed the triple crown in 1974, followed by Ireland’s Stephen Roche in 1987.

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‘I’ll never be a superstar

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It’s been an unbelievable day – Simon Yates on Vuelta a Espana win

Britain’s Simon Yates says that despite winning the Vuelta a Espana on Sunday he will never be a superstar – and that it is fine by him.

The 26-year-old Michelton-Scott rider crossed the line safely in Madrid to complete a clean sweep of British victories in this year’s Grand Tours.

He missed out on the Giro d’Italia in May despite having led for 13 days but has now secured his first Grand Tour.

“I never really truly believed the win would arrive,” he told BBC Sport.

British riders have now won nine of the past 20 Grand Tours, a run that started when Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first to win one with victory in the 2012 Tour de France.

Only twice before have riders from the same country won all three races in the same season, but this is the first time it has been done by different cyclists – Chris Froome winning the Giro d’Italia and Geraint Thomas the Tour de France.

And Yates’ victory will be the fifth Grand Tour triumph in a row for Britain, with Froome having also won last year’s Tour and Vuelta.


Simon Yates joined the elite names of his sport by winning the Vuelta

Speaking to BBC Sport’s David Ornstein, Yates said the victory had yet to sink in.

“I’ve had so many setbacks,” he said. “I guess those setbacks also really give you the motivation to keep plugging away, keep trying to just pull it off.

“Even in the final day there in Andorra I really didn’t believe that I could do it. I have been second many, many times, just missing out. We were really focused just to cross the finish line, really complete the job well and it was just an unbelievable journey.”

Asked whether the success would make him a household name, he said: “Cycling is still a small sport in the UK. We have had many successes now but if you compare it to football or any other sport it’s still a small sport.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be a superstar – but that’s fine by me because that’s not my character. I’m quite a laid-back guy, I like to relax on my own.

“I really just want to celebrate this victory first. This is the first Grand Tour for the team – it’s a really historic moment.”

He said he hoped his twin brother Adam, who also rides for Michelton-Scott, can win a Grand Tour in the future.

“I have full confidence that he will get there eventually,” he said.

‘If he’d gone to Sky, he wouldn’t have won’

Sir Bradley Wiggins, who became the first Briton to win the Tour de France with Team Sky in 2012, said he was “certainly not surprised” by Yates’ victory “because he’s been knocking on the door for years”.

The 38-year-old, who since retiring has strongly criticised his former team, also said Yates was right to have turned down a chance to join Team Sky.

“If he’d gone to Sky, I don’t think he’d have won the Vuelta,” Wiggins said.

“It was a sliding doors moment, whether his career would have gone down this path. By nature of the fact that Sky wouldn’t take Adam as well in one package, he’s ended up finding a great team and won a Grand Tour at 26,” he added.

“We all knew that Simon was capable of it. To execute it was obviously another thing. Now, at 26, he’s got chances to win more down the line.”

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How ‘battle-hardened’ Yates learned from bitter Giro experience

Simon Yates

Simon Yates picked himself up from disappointment in the Giro d’Italia and will win his first Grand Tour in Madrid

There are familiar semantic havens when sport brings failure rather than success.

We’ll be stronger for this loss. You learn more from defeat than victory. This is all part of the journey.

Most of the time they ring hollow. If you’re stronger for a loss, why not try to lose all the time? Why should failing to overcome problems teach you more than successfully working out the solutions? A journey can be enlightening yet it must also reach its final destination.

Sometimes they are more than cliche. Simon Yates’ impending victory at the Vuelta a Espana has been buttressed by the strength of his Michelton-Scott team and eased by the absence of some star names and the troubled form of others. But more than anything else, it has come from experience, and not just the happy kind.

Yates came within two days of winning the Giro d’Italia in May. He held the race’s pink jersey – the maglia rosa – for 13 days, won three stages and rode with consistent panache.

You couldn’t miss him, all the way to the 19th stage where suddenly you couldn’t see him.

As Chris Froome launched his famous solo attack on the Colle delle Finestre, Yates imploded, losing 38 minutes on the day and tumbling from first on the general classification to 17th.

A victory of attrition – not spectacular assaults


Simon Yates is joining the elite names of his sport by winning the Vuelta

In Spain, he has ridden with the grizzled caution of a connoisseur. When he first took the leader’s red jersey he was happy to soon cede it. As he has won it back he has done it not with spectacular assaults but with attrition and restraint.

At least once a day, he says, his team sport director Matt White has told him to ease off the throttle. He has listened every time.

Yates’ tactics at the Giro were in part dictated by his rivals and by the parcours.

Up against Froome and Tom Dumoulin and with a long time trial in the final week, he felt forced to hunt every bonus second he could find before then.

His expectations shifted too; he had begun the race as support for team-mate Esteban Chaves, only for their divergent form on the road to lead to a rapid reassessment.

The Vuelta has been different. Froome and Dumoulin are absent, spent from their exploits at the Giro and Tour. Geraint Thomas is recovering from his own glorious graduation. Richie Porte, Vincenzo Nibali and Mikel Landa have all been brought low by injury.

But Yates is different too. The Giro is unpredictable, a race that throws fireworks at you, the maverick brother of the more controllable, corporate Tour. Yates rode it in character, attacking from close in, attacking from distance; chasing a team-mate, doing it solo. Dancing on the pedals, climbing with an easy grace and explosive acceleration.

He has ridden the Vuelta the way Alastair Cook approached his Test innings, the way Jordan Spieth won his debut Masters: with calculation, with restraint, with an eye on the long-term. The cruel three-week examination of a Grand Tour demands consistency as much as flair.

One-off displays of verve are fine. The battle-hardened ability to see off multiple attacks and rivals and conditions takes longer to learn.

‘The Yates brothers stood out from very early on’


Adam Yates (left) has been riding in the shadow of his brother Simon (right) in this year’s Vuelta

Yates has soaked all those lessons up, just as he did after winning the white jersey for the best young rider at the Tour de France a year ago, in becoming world champion in the points race on the track in 2013, after finishing second at the Paris-Nice stage race earlier this year.

But the 26-year-old, like his twin brother Adam, has always been quick to absorb the education of the road.

“The first time I saw them they were 12, these two tiny little lads, and your first thought was, blimey, what are these two doing coming out with adults?” remembers Nick Hall, chairman of Bury Clarion cycling club.

“You soon realised why. That first ride was only 30 miles or so. At that stage they obviously lacked a bit of stamina, but even then you could tell they were two very talented lads.

“Talking to them, even at that age, you asked them what they wanted to do and they would say ‘professional bike rider’. Other lads of the same age were playing football in the park and wanted to be Premier League footballers. For the Yates it was all cycling.

“They would sprint to the next lamppost and sprint against each other. In a friendly manner, but that competitive edge was always there between them. When they were in serious races they would race each other, but on training rides they were very competitive.

“When they started racing at Manchester velodrome, that made a massive difference to them. And they stood out among their peers there. They progressed to outdoor races and once again they stood out from very early on.”

It’s quite some trinity


Geraint Thomas, left, Simon Yates, second left, and Chris Froome, right, during the 2017 Tour de France

Only twice before has one country made a clean sweep of all three Grand Tours in the same season: in 1964, when Frenchman Jacques Anquetil won the Tour and Giro and his compatriot Raymond Poulidor the Vuelta, and then in 2008 when Spain’s Alberto Contador took the Giro and Vuelta and Carlos Sastre the Tour.

Never before have three different men from the same nation each won one apiece. And then came this golden year for British cycling in an era that had already brought unprecedented success: Froome charging late to snatch the Giro, Thomas indomitable across three weeks in France, Yates set to complete the hat-trick in Madrid on Sunday.

It is quite some trinity. The Yates twins have previously been compared to triathlon’s Brownlee brothers, two other similarly flinty siblings from across the Pennines in Leeds.

While both sets of brothers share a fierce competitiveness, the dynamics are subtly different. Alistair Brownlee is two years Jonny’s senior and when the two have raced together in the Olympics he has come out on top both times.

There are only five minutes between Simon and Adam, the two taking different routes into elite cycling until both joined the Australian team that was then Orica-GreenEdge, and there has been little between them in terms of their palmares, at least until this week.

Totally at ease with pressure of competition


Simon Yates shakes the hand of home favourite and main rival Alejandro Valverde before the start of the 19th stage of the Vuelta a Espana

Both are more comfortable in the saddle than in front of a microphone. Both are totally at ease with the pressures of competition. Simon, throughout the past three weeks, has seldom appeared jittery.

“Simon and Adam take it all in their stride,” says Nick Hall. “Even when they first turned professional, they raced against the top riders like Alberto Contador and Chris Froome like they were racing in a local club ride.

“Although they respected them, they were never overawed by them. They were always comfortable in that environment.

“They’re both very chilled out. That comes from their mum and dad, John and Sue, although their parents can never watch them racing on TV in the same room. One has to go in the front room, the other in the back. They get too tense.”

Vuelta win should make Simon a star

There is no fluking a Grand Tour. To win one, as with a tennis grand slam or golf major, requires repeated excellence. There can be no lucky long-range goal to nick it against the odds.

That should make the older Yates a star. He will be more of a marked man from now on. Teams will devise tactics to neutralise his strengths. His improvised moves will be watched with care.

But just as he has developed across the four months from the Giro to now, so he should improve again.

The disappointments of the final few days in Italy were not the defining narrative in his year. The Vuelta triumph may only be the start of the rest of his career.

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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Simon Yates set to win his first Grand Tour

Simon Yates

Yates crosses the finish line on stage 20, knowing he has won the race

Britain’s Simon Yates will win a first Grand Tour after finishing third on the Vuelta a Espana’s penultimate stage.

Yates leads stage 20 winner Enric Mas by one minute 46 seconds with Sunday’s processional race to Madrid to come.

Tradition dictates the race leader is not attacked on the final stage so he just needs to cross the line to win.

It means British riders will hold all three Grand Tour titles after Chris Froome won the 2018 Giro d’Italia and Geraint Thomas took the Tour de France.

And Yates’ victory will be the fifth Grand Tour triumph in a row for Britain after Froome also won last year’s Tour and Vuelta.

The 26-year-old MItchelton-Scott rider come close to winning one of the sport’s three-week races in May when he led the Giro going into stage 19. However, he was undone by Froome’s stunning solo ride as the Team Sky rider won a sixth Grand Tour.

Fears of a repeat at the Vuelta were quickly quashed with Yates riding a more measured race.

More follows.

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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Simon Yates increases lead after stage 19

Breaking news

Britain’s Simon Yates took command of the Vuelta a Espana after finishing second on stage 19 to increase his lead to one minute 38 seconds.

The 26-year-old, bidding to become only the second Briton to win the Vuelta after Chris Froome in 2017, was 25 seconds clear before Friday’s stage.

A superb burst saw him go clear, before Thibaut Pinot won the 154.5km stage from Lleida to Coll de la Rabassa.

Nearest rival Alejandro Valverde lost ground after finishing eighth.

Saturday’s racing sees a 97km run across the mountains, before Sunday’s closing from Alcorcon to Madrid.

More to follow.

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