Rising British star Simon Yates may have just signed a neo-pro contract with Orica-GreenEDGE, but the Manchester-born youngster has not forgotten where he comes from.
Tour of Britain white jersey winner Simon, 21, and twin brother Adam, agreed terms with the Australian World Tour team last week, turning down a number of approaches from other big-name teams.
Living so close to the National Cycling Centre ensured the boys received a solid grounding in the sport, and Simon admits his experiences in British Cycling’s talent programme laid the foundations for his rapid rise this year.
“It encourages you, you get a bit more of a feel of what’s required and I think through the programme, that was how I got the gist of what I really needed to do and how,” he told RCUK.
“The academy did help massively in taking me from being an enthusiastic kid to this stage. That’s what it’s there for.
You’ve got all the British Cycling guys and they’re top of the world. They’re the best riders in the world and that just shows you.
“The whole plan and the mindset is to develop you for later in life and there was never any pressure to get results. It was purely development.
“You see the other guys that have come through as well, you’ve got all the British Cycling guys and they’re all top of the world. They’re the best riders in the world and that just shows you.”
Simon kicked off his fine year on the track, winning the World Points Race to bag a coveted rainbow jersey, before turning his attentions to the road.
What followed was an incredible rise, featuring a stage win at the Tour of Britain where he attacked an elite group including eventual winner Sir Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to win the summit finish at Haytor.
He eventually finished third overall and has also achieved stage wins, and a top-ten finish, at the Tour L’Avenir alongside encouraging performances at An Post Ras, Thuringen Rundfahrt der U23 and the Czech Cycling Tour.
And having now signed his first professional contract, Yates admits his foreseeable future is now on the road.
“I wouldn’t say never [to a return to the track],” he admiited. “But I think the way the events are planned leading into the Olympics, it would have been a tall order for me to get into the team anyway.
I’ve got a good couple of years now on the road and I think once I get those years out of the way and have learned the ropes, I’ll assess from there
“I’ve got a good couple of years now on the road and I think once I get those years out of the way and have learned the ropes, I’ll assess from there and see what’s happening.”
Some riders are able to combine both track and road racing – Wiggle Honda trio Laura Trott, Jo Rowsell and Dani King are notable examples while Madison-Genesis’ Andy Tennant will ride at this month’s European Track Championships too.
However Yates believes it is down to ‘pot luck’ as to how easily you can switch between the disciplines.
“I think it’s different for every rider really,” he said. “For me personally, the biggest part of it is the weight issue.
“Doing the track you do put on quite a lot of muscle and I just don’t get over the climbs as well. I think it’s a knock-on effect from there.
“I know a lot of riders say they can switch in and out really easily but I guess it’s down to pot luck! I think it comes down to how your body type is and the way you react to it.”
Despite his success on both the track and road in 2013 however, Simon admits he may not even have got into the sport had it not been for growing up in Bury, near to Manchester’s National Cycling Centre.
I obviously love riding my bike but it was usually dossing around, but then I went to watch at the track one day and that was it. I was hooked
“Living so close to the National Cycling Centre growing up is easily the biggest factor in me becoming a cyclist,” he explained.
“I wouldn’t even be a cyclist now if it hadn’t been for the track being so close. My Dad used to do a bit of bike riding but I was never really fully interested.
“I obviously love riding my bike but it was usually dossing around – nothing competitive really. And then I went to watch one day and that was it really. I was hooked and I never looked back.”
He added: “I don’t really know at what point I decided to be a cyclist – it was probably when my school grades weren’t that great!
“But no, I always stayed interested and tried really hard to get the best out of myself that I could and getting on to the talent programme under the British Cycling system helped a lot.”
And Simon admits, despite the commitment required, he has been able to profit from the phenomenal rise of cycling in the country – even if it does limit some opportunities.
He said: “I guess it has been a great time to get into cycling, given its popularity now.
It has been a great time to get in into cycling. It’s great for cycling and Great Britain and the more the better
“But, saying that, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth too because there are that many good guys now I can’t get in the team! But no, it’s great for cycling and Great Britain and the more the better.
“It does take quite a big commitment. I don’t really get to see my mates until the off-season, such as now.
“I spend a long time cycling obviously now but this is the career I’ve chosen – if I hadn’t made it and I hadn’t turned pro then it might be a different story but it’s worked out all fine for me.”
And alongside his development with British Cycling, there has been one other constant in Simon’s coming of age whom he is keen to pay tribute to.
“Developing alongside Adam is probably the main thing really,” he admitted.
“You get these cold winter days up here in the north and we’re going out on the road doing a load of miles and as long as you’ve got somebody there with you to motivate you it makes life so much easier and that’s just how we’ve grown up, in that sort of way.
You get these cold winter days up here in the north and we’re going out on the road doing a load of miles. It really does give you that extra push
“It is an extra push. Especially as it is hard to motivate yourself in the winter and all that malarkey and I think it really does give you that extra push.”
And with both brothers now set to continue their development down under, it is certainly not the last we will be hearing of Simon and Adam Yates.