Yates relishes surprise call up
A surreal week for Simon Yates was capped when the Lancastrian's parents gave him a lift over the Pennines and dropped him off at the start of the Tour de France in Leeds.
- Related Content
The 21-year-old rode last week's British road race championship, finishing third, without even a sneaking suspicion he might be in the frame for Orica GreenEdge's Tour squad.
But when his phone rang on Sunday night, Yates' first season as a professional rider took a huge twist.
"I thought they were going to be calling about the Tour of Poland, which is a month away," Yates said. "It's a shock. From the start of the year I was not even a reserve for the Tour de France so to come to the biggest race we do all year, and specially with it coming to England, it's a big opportunity."
Simon, who missed a huge chunk of the season after breaking his collarbone in the Tour of Turkey, got the nod over his twin brother despite Adam winning that race in Turkey and finishing sixth in the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month.
But Adam, who was sat next to his brother when he took the call, is offering nothing but support.
"He just told me to pull one out of the bag," Yates said.
The opportunity came in unfortunate circumstances, with Orica revealing that Daryl Impey, the South African who wore the yellow jersey for two stages in last year's Tour, had been stood down following a positive test for Probecenid.
But Yates' inclusion is a welcome boost to British numbers in this year's race with Sir Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, Peter Kennaugh and Alex Dowsett on a lengthy list of absentees.
While Geraint Thomas will focus on helping Chris Froome defend yellow, and Mark Cavendish will seek stage wins starting with the opener on Saturday, Yates knows his own role will have a much lower profile but he is more than happy to defer to his team-mates.
"I'm just here to help Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews," he said. "We're targeting the medium mountain days where a sprinter who can climb will get to the finish and hopefully I can play a big part."
Asked if he harboured his own ambitions, he added: "I don't think so. The guys here are the best in the business so I'll leave it to them. They're experienced. Simon won a stage in the Tour last year, and 'Bling' (Matthews) just came from the Giro (d'Italia)."
Yates' parents had a relatively short drive from their Bury home to Leeds, but the Girona-based rider admitted local knowledge would only get him so far with just a few stretches of the opening two stages familiar to him.
"I know some of the climbs in the middle part of the second stage," he said. "They're my local training roads. But once we get into the cities I don't really know."
The route is not the only thing Yates needs to get his head around after a whirlwind few days.
While he hopes his enforced absence since Turkey has kept him fresh, nothing has prepared him for a shock call-up only days before cycling's biggest race of the year.
"I've come here prepared legs-wise, but not mentally," he admitted. "I'm just looking forward to getting started."