Sign up for our newsletter


Ride like the pros: Adam Yates

9 Jun 2017

We put last year Tour de France white jersey winner under the microscope to see what makes him a rising star

Name: Adam Yates
Nickname: The Shadow
Age: 24
Lives: Girona, Spain
Rider type: Climber
Professional teams: 2013 CC Etupes; 2014- Orica-Scott

Palmares: Tour de France: 2 stage wins (2015, 2016); Tirreno-Adriatico 2016; Olympic Road Race 2016; Paris-Roubaix 2017, Gent-Wevelgem 2017; Omloop Het Niewsblad 2016, 2017; E3-Harelbeke 2017; Tour of Belgium 2015; Tour de Wallonie 2011, 2013; Paris-Tours 2011; Vuelta a Espana points jersey 2008

Tour de France 2016: 4th overall and best young rider; Tour of Turkey 2014, winner overall; Clasica de San Sebastián 2015; Tour of Alberta 2015, 2nd overall; Tour de Yorkshire 2016, 4th overall


This month we look at Bury-born pro Adam Yates, who lit up last year’s Tour de France, becoming the first-ever Brit to win the white jersey for best young rider after finishing fourth overall.

Still just 24, the man known as ‘The Shadow’ nearly repeated the feat at last month's Giro d'Italia, losing out in the battle for the white jersey to Bob Jungels by a minute in finishing ninth overall.

Attention will shift to twin brother Simon at next month's Tour de France, but for now let's focus on Adam and what we can learn from one of Britain’s brightest cycling talents...

Find a speciality

WHAT? Yates is known for his climbing prowess and with good reason, too, as he's shown repeatedly he can keep up with the best in the business. However, he wasn’t always a climber.

‘Years ago I didn’t really specialise in anything but (in 2016) I really trained for it and I guess it shows. Climbing’s what I’m best at,’ he admitted.

His work has certainly paid off, helping turn Team Orica-Scott from a sprint-heavy team into a more all-round contender.

HOW? If you’re a stockier rider or a featherweight weeny then you’re halfway towards finding your own speciality. Whether you want to really nail technique for sprinting, climbing or just endurance it pays to train.

In Yates’ case, the Brit worked specifically on his power-to-weight ratio and looked at shedding weight where possible. We can’t all have dedicated teams to help us perfect our specialities but find what works for you.

If you want to sprint quicker, work on your max-power output. If you want to cycle faster over a longer period, fine-tune your functional threshold power. If you want to be a better climber, shed a few pounds.

Go to Girona

WHAT? The Northwest lad has spent a lot of time on the continent, plying his trade in France as a young rider before moving to Girona with his Orica-Scott teammates.

‘A lot of pros live there,’ he explains. ‘The main thing is the weather because it’s always about 20 degrees for the whole year, so it makes training much easier mentally. There are lots of famous climbs with long, steep roads, like Rocacorba. And on quieter days, you can go to the beach if you want. It’s a great set-up.’

HOW? Moving to Girona just to hang out with the stars is a bit extreme but the Catalonian town is fully geared up for cycling holiday breaks and even has its own cycling festival.

The Girona Cycling Festival hosts everything from a Nocturnal Crit race through the cobbled streets of the old town to a fully-fledged gran fondo.

Starting at €75 for entry to the gran fondo, right up to €500 for the Gold Package, which also includes sports massage, access to the VIP tent and even training tips from some of the pros living there.

While you may not be a pro, you can certainly act like one for a short time at least. The week-long event takes place in June. See for more details.

Lube your chain

WHAT? Yates’ bike is cared for by a team of mechanics who’ll look to improve the bike’s performance to give their rider the edge. One example of this is how they lube his bike’s chains.

In any picture of Yates’ preferred Scott Addict, you’ll notice a large amount of grease on the bike’s chain. Orica-Scott mechanics are known to lube the chain with oil and then run the train through their grease-covered palm – increasing the amount used if the weather is going to be wet.

HOW? A highly greased chain will help it run more smoothly but it can also be a pain to clean. However, there are plenty of lubes on the market that can produce similar results but with less mess.

One of our favourites is Finish Line’s Ceramic Wet Lube. It acts like a standard wet lube before drying and forming a wax-like seal all along your chain, protecting it from water and grit.

Beat the pain

WHAT? Riding in a Grand Tour has its fair share of pain whether that be hurting on the hills or horrible crashes. Yates deals with this pain by ignoring it.

‘When you’re racing you try not to think about the pain or the suffering much at all. You just think about pushing on, or what you need to do to keep going.

‘In fact, if you think too much, you’ll end up saying: hold on, what am I doing here? It’s best to think about pretty much anything other than how much you’re hurting.’

HOW? We’ve all been there, when you’re halfway through a ride, hurting and there’s a long way to go. Yates’ advice hints at the use of distraction techniques used by sports psychologists.

This works by consciously focusing your attention away from negative thoughts to positive ones. One easy way to keep your mind off the hurt on a group ride is to keep talking to your mates.

Pace yourself

WHAT? In last year’s Tour de France, Yates stole the show with his impressive performance in the white jersey. His climbing abilities and tactical nous saw him climb as high as third in the overall standing at one point before finishing the race in a still hugely impressive fourth.

His talent has long been plain to see, but his achievement was just as much down to his savvy riding. Typically he's spotted lurking at the back of the group, a tactic he repeated at last month's Giro and which has earned him his nickname of ‘The Shadow’.

HOW? On a sportive or even a long ride with friends, it’s important to be aware of what you have in your tank. If a fellow rider speeds off into the distance don’t be afraid to sit back and keep to your own pace.

Sometimes we let our competitive edge get the better of us, clouding our judgement, and before we know it we’ve blown up trying to keep pace with riders who might be stronger or simply less disciplined than us.

Yates knows the importance of not getting drawn into wasteful displays of chest-beating. Keep your eye on the main goal and question whether chasing after someone as they power off will really help you in the long run.

Get the right bike

WHAT? A favoured choice for a lot of the Orica-Scott riders is the team’s aero bike, the Scott Foil. However, Yates being a climber at heart has always preferred to go with the American firm’s super-lightweight Addict.

HOW? Even though we’re always being told that the more aero a bike is, the better it will perform, the truth is that you’re best investing in a bike that suits your needs.

Aero bikes, for example, have a much more aggressive geometry, forcing you low you over the bars. If you suffer from a bad back or poor flexibility, the last thing you want to do is ride like a sprinter.

If sportives are your bag, find a bike that allows you to ride in a more relaxed, upright position. Or if you’re a climber like The Shadow, pick a ride that’s light and stiff and isn’t wearing heavier deep-rim wheels.

By identifying what kind of rider you are – like Yates has – you’ll have more of a clue about what kind of bike you’ll get the most from.

Read more about: