The new Vuelta champion is the youngest recent grand tour winner and can benefit from his teams new focus on the discipline
Seven years ago, when Simon Yates took his first stage win at the Tour de l’Avenir, Great Britain had yet to win one of cycling’s major tours, although Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome were about to come agonisingly close at the Vuelta a Espana. Eight grand tour wins later, out of a possible 18, with four different riders, British domination of this side of cycling now seems a devoted, in the same way that Quickstep Floors are expected to rule the roost in one-day Classics.
In winning the Vuelta by 1min 46 sec from the astonish runner-up Enric Mas, Yates has finally confirmed the potential he indicated back in 2011. It was a timely leap, as the next generation is waiting in the wings: the American Sepp Kuss, so strong in the first two weeks of his first grand tour, Spain’s Mas, the Colombians Miguel Angel Lopez and Egan Bernal.
Realising potential is rarely as straightforward as a simple improvement graph may suggest, as many can testify, most recently Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet. In a three-week tour the transition from targeting a top-1 0 finish overall, and- as was Yates’s instance- the young rider’s jersey to going full-on for an overall win is not to be underestimated. The priority ceases to be that of simply staying in touch but becomes a delicate balancing act: gaining period at key moments although it is not risking excessive loss, on any devoted day or in the working day that lie ahead.
In three months Yates has learned rapidly, given the contrast between the Giro d’Italia, where he signally failed to husband his resources, and the Vuelta, where he managed his strength perfectly for the final week. His ability to read a race and time his move was evident well before he turned professional in 2014 but he has added to that the ability to read himself and his body over three weeks.
To achieve this he has had to curb and control the attacking instincts which have stimulated him so exciting to watch over the last five years.” When I find myself on the defensive, it’s quite hard, mentally, to react to people ,” he said on Saturday.” You never feel like you have the edge or you get the jump, or you astonish anyone. When you’re more aggressive, and you’re attacking, you get that little bit of momentum, you have that bit of a jumping, that bit of astound, and it makes a big difference .”
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