Simon Yates is well-known as a top climber in the pro peloton. On today’s Tour de France stage to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, he also proved he can play the role of sprinter.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider used his legs and his head to outwit breakaway companions Pello Bilbao (Astana Pro Team) and Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the race to the finish line.
You’d think Yates had been doing this all his life — skillfully placing himself behind Bilbao and Mühlberger at exactly one kilometer to go, then bursting to the front to take the final left hand corner at the front and holding off his rivals. He now has stage wins in the Tour, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana.
TV commentator and retired pro Robbie McEwan, a man with a number of Tour sprint wins to his credit, described Yates’ performance as “Too clever, too cunning.” There’s no question that Yates also benefited from time spent on the track back when he first started his career.
“So far I’ve been saving energy until we got here in the mountains,” said Yates. “This was my first chance to try something. Normally I’d be back in the peloton helping Adam, but today I had my own change and I grabbed it with both hands.”
Past race results suggested that Mühlberger was the faster man but Yates had the tactics and anticipation to steal the win. “I wasn’t very confident of beating either of them, but I just knew from the directors in the car that I needed to be in front coming around the last corner, so I made sure to do that and luckily I held on to win.”
Adam Yates had to wait ten minutes to congratulate his brother as the main peloton rolled in ten minutes later. Mitchelton-Scott now have two wins so far in the Tour, counting Daryl Impey’s win in Brioude three days earlier.
Sports Director Matt White was confident that Yates would switch gears from climber to sprinter. “Simon might be a little guy, but he’s got a turn of speed on him and the other guys, they’re no slouches, but at the end of the day we were pretty confident that when we got into that group of three that he could beat them.”
Earlier in the stage, with five kilometers to the top of the Horquette d’Ancizan, the team has their true sprinter Matteo Trentin in a break with Simon Clarke (EF Education First). As it turned out, they didn’t need Trentin — Yates isn’t a sprinter but he does a pretty good imitation.