As the Yates brothers have finally gone their separate ways with Adam’s move to Ineos Grenadiers, it is an apposite time to see how the two siblings actually stack up against one another.
One if not both of the Yateses moving to Ineos is a transfer that has been talked about in various forms for some time. The franchise formerly known as Sky was always touted as the natural home for the twin talents of British cycling’s brightest stars – but it took a new sponsor (and one would have to assume a change of heart) before just one of them made the jump. Until the signing was announced, both brothers had always seemed entirely content with their lot in life – riding for an anglophone but crucially not-British team, making incremental steps along their respective career paths.
Eurosport’s fraternal cycling expert, Felix Lowe, summarised just what an unusual prospect it is to see Yates vs Yates.
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“In terms of ability, it’s rare to see two brothers, simultaneously, operate on the same high level, especially in the modern era. The Pelissiers ruled the roost for a sustained period, albeit with the third, Charles, not performing on an all-round level to the same standards as his elders, Henri and Francis," says Lowe.
“But to have two brothers, twins no less, performing at the standard of the Yateses is not something we’ve seen since Andy and Frank Schleck. And given their age and abilities, it’s not daft to think that Simon and Adam can outperform the Luxembourgeois gentilshommes. What’s interesting is that seldom do brothers ride on different teams. Up until now there wasn’t a conflict of interests between the Yateses because they were either following different race programs or operating in a designated team hierarchy. It’s going to be intriguing to see a) if Adam kicks on at Ineos having fallen behind his brother a little at MS, and b) seeing them compete against each other for the first time in their professional careers.”
It was, arguably, Adam who started his career the brightest. He placed fourth at Le Tour in 2016, bagging the white jersey for best young rider in the process – and there can be few more effective ways of getting the media gushing about a rider’s prospects than the maillot blanc. Throw in the fact he placed second in the GC at the 2013 Tour de L’Avenir, ‘the race of the future’, and you had all the ingredients for a tantalising next-big-thing to set even the most hardened hack’s heart aflutter.
Simon bagged his own maillot blanc a year after his brother, before forging on and surpassing Adam’s achievement by winning the Vuelta a España in 2018. This victory came after a brutal final-week collapse in the Giro some four months prior. That spectacular implosion was arguably a more memorable moment in the Yates’s saga than any of either brother’s victories.
2018 was not without its successes for Adam, either. He won stages at Tirreno and the Dauphiné, but – crucially – underperformed at Le Tour, placing 29th overall. He described the 2018 edition as being characterised by “mistakes and big disappointment”. He was though, it must be said, instrumental in helping Simon to his Vuelta crown a month or so later.
2019 and 2020 continued in much the same vein, with both brothers achieving success. Nothing Adam won in that period quite pips Simon’s double stage win at Le Tour in 2019, though. Not even the UAE Tour overall.
It has taken until now for a truly significant fork in the road to separate the two Bury-born brothers. Simon will stay at Bike Exchange, where – barring something truly surprising – he will have undisputed leadership roles at whichever of the Grand Tours he chooses.
Adam’s future is less clear. He has joined a squad with two of the last three Tour winners, the reigning Giro champ, not to mention the bloke who won it the year before him – as well as the emerging talent of Filippo Ganna who is surely just one or two more years away from a GC tilt himself. Adam cannot possibly think he will lead a Grand Tour squad for Ineos, can he? Or has he been given assurances by Sirs Dave and Jim? Ineos Grenadiers is, more than any other team, a place where great talents have a tendency to face into the background – not necessarily neglected, but directed into support roles.
If you were to weigh their palmarès right now – Simon would shade it with that GT overall win and brace of Tour stages, but there’s plenty of time for Adam to gain ground, so long as he gets the opportunities.
Does that represent a lack of ambition on Adam’s part? Or is he simply the more pragmatic of the two twins? Is Simon right to stay on a smaller team with undisputed leadership, or might he fare better by trading up to a big-budget team like Jumbo-Visma where he could swap support in one Grand Tour for the backing of his teammates in another?
Time will answer some of these questions for us, but one thing we know already is that 2021 will certainly be a definitive chapter in the story of the brothers Yates.
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