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Adam Yates: Q&A

James Witts
24 Aug 2016

The young Brit had a fantastic Tour de France, claiming fourth overall and the white jersey. He talked to Cyclist near the end of the race.

Cyclist: It’s the second rest day in Bern. What have you been up to?

Adam Yates: Not a lot, to be honest. We’re right next to a Starbucks so I’ve been there twice already today.Then it’s all the usual rest-day stuff: massage, relaxing, eating… The last week’s been tough but I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s 17th stage. I rode that climb [the hors-categorie effort to Finhaut-Emosson in Switzerland] at the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné and did okay. When it’s steeper, it suits riders like me who are smaller. [Yates finished eight seconds behind yellow jersey Chris Froome to consolidate third place before slipping to fourth on Stage 19.]

Cyc: You’ve been labelled ‘the gatekeeper’ for your habit of riding on the back of the group on climbs…

AY: [Interrupts] Some people call me the gatekeeper? To be honest, I’ve raced like that my entire life. I’m suffering no more than anyone else but it’s a position I feel comfortable with. I can see what’s going on and can set my pace accordingly.

Cyc: You’ve had an eventful Tour, including being caught by both a flag and an inflatable banner…

AY: Yeah, the Tour can be pretty dangerous! You have so many people roadside and there’s stuff lying about everywhere – including flags – so it’s just something you have to be aware of and adapt to. What’s more controllable is finishes like yesterday [Stage 16 into Bern]. In the lead-up to the finish line you had corner, corner, roundabout, roundabout and cobbles. That was a pretty harsh stretch but we’re professionals – we have to deal with it. Mind you, there’s not a lot you can do about a collapsing inflatable banner!

Cyc: Michael Rogers has told Cyclist that there’s a minimum 10% power drop-off come the third week. Doesthat ring true?

AY: I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s an average power drop-off but it’s more that you just can’t repeat those all-out efforts again and again. We’re a pretty progressive team so recovery strategies, including nutrition and things like compression socks, are pretty good. 

Cyc: As you tend to excel on longer, steeper climbs, did the shortening of the Ventoux stage impact your race strategy?

AY: I don’t know, it was still 16km long and damn tough! The thing is, all the riders in the top 10 – save Froome, I guess – seemed pretty equal on many of the ascents, so if you make a mistake, you’re dropped. It’s not that I wasn’t willing to make an attack on Ventoux – I just didn’t have the legs. Ultimately, I’ve said it a million times but I do the maximum I can each day. If my legs fail, so be it.

Cyc: The white jersey is a prized asset, but also brings with it expectation. Do you find it comes with additional stress?

AY: Whether you’re in the white jersey or not, racing is stressful. And that’s not just at the Tour – you’ve got to be on it for the whole season. Off the bike, however, we relax as much as possible and that’s something Orica is good at – as you can see in our behind-the-scenes Backstage Pass videos. Mind you, the white jersey can be a pain in the arse! That’s no disrespect but after the race you have all these interviews to do and podium stuff. You end up being one of the last to leave even though you’re one of the first to finish.

Cyc: Team Sky is dominant – or that’s how it looks from the outside, anyway. How does it feel looking from within the race?

AY: To be honest, the team has looked strong for the whole race and Froome just seems much stronger than everybody else. Sky have set a super-strong tempo throughout and have been pretty hard to attack. They're tough to break. If they’d shown a moment of weakness, I would have gone for it. So would Quintana, Valverde… But they’re very strong.

Cyc: Sir Dave Brailsford has commented that you look unfazed and it’s ‘as if he’s riding the Otley Crit’. Is that how it feels?

AY: Otley Crit is hard! It’s pretty well known that I don’t like doing the media stuff, but as Brian [Nygaard, Orica’s press officer] tells me, it’s part of the job and you’ve just got to get on with it. It comes with the territory. In terms of racing, nothing’s changed – I’ve raced like this since I was a youngster.

Cyc: How did your build-up to this year’s Tour differ from 2015 when you finished 50th overall?

AY: Well, I prepared well last year, too, but perhaps this year I was more focused. We also tried a new strategy. Before the Dauphiné [where Yates finished seventh], I had a spell at altitude. Then after the Dauphiné, I did another two-week altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada in southern Spain. I’d never followed that altitude-race-altitude strategy before and wanted to give it a go. The team gave me the freedom to try it and it looks like it has paid off.

Cyc: Have your family been here to see your success?

AY: Not that I’m aware of. My mum’s always pretty stressed, but my dad’s calm. My brother [Simon, who’s just returned from a four-month suspension after an admin error led him to use an inhaler without permission] has just been racing in Poland, although he’s back at his base in Girona now.

Cyc: What are your plans once the Tour is over?

AY: The dream is that I go home and relax as it’s been a pretty intense three weeks. I’m looking forward to just hitting my bed and doing nothing. And I will be cruising around Paris for a few days after the race. But then it’s off to race San Sebastian [a race he won in 2015] and then the Olympics. I’m heading over to Rio on Sunday, 7th August. After Rio, it’s definitiely going to be kickback time.

Cyc: So… million dollar question… do you see a Tour victory in your future?

AY: The plan was always to be a GC rider but I’m reluctant to make long-term goals that are too far away. I’ll take it year by year and see what happens. If you plan too far in the future, something will go wrong and it will all unravel.

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