Cycle Heroes March 11, 2012

British Cycling Heroes - Sean Yates

Sean Yates is a man with two successful careers to his name; his first resulted in him being one of the best professional cyclists Britain has ever produced, the second is as coach to some of the biggest teams in modern day cycling. Notably, in 1994, Yates became one of only four men to earn the right to wear the yellow jersey during the Tour de France, following in the footsteps of legends such as Tom Simpson and Chris Boardman. He was one of the most successful domestiques to compete in the professional peloton, a rider who could not only grind out a victory his own but also someone who could perform at the highest levels against the clock. During 15 years on the professional circuit, Sean rode as a domestiques for a number of teams that include Peugeot, Fagor, 7-Eleven and Motorola. Post life in the saddle Yates has managed a number of pro teams and coached the likes of Lance Armstrong. He is currently one of Team Sky's Sports Directors. 

Yates came to prominence in 1980 when he competed in the Summer Olympics where he finished sixth in the 4,000m individual pursuit. As a testiment to his fitness, he competed 16 years later for Team GB in the 1996 Olympics. As an amateur in 1980, he won both the British 25-mile individual time trial championship as well as claiming the national record for 10-mile time trials with a time of 19m 44s. In his early days, Yates rode for the French team ACBB in Paris with fellow British riders John Herety and Jeff Williams. Yates was one of the English speaking 'foreign legion' who we proving their talent and changing the face of cycling at the same time. He was fast developing a reputation as a strong time trialist, his turn of pace and power making him stand out from the rest of the field. 

By 1982 he had turned professional, lining up for the Peugeot cycling team riding alongside Graham Jones, Robert Millar and Stephen Roche. 1982 was a good year for Yates; he became British professional individual pursuit champion in 1982 and retained the title in 1983. He stayed with Peugeot for 6 years then rode for Fagor during the 1988 season. 1988 was a successful year for Yates winning a stage in the Tour de France (a time trial at Wasquehal, setting a Tour record speed) and at the Vuelta a España in 1988. In addition he also won a stage in Paris–Nice and Midi-Libre and finished fourth in the Tour of Britain. 

He moved teams again in 1989, joining US team 7-Eleven. Yates claimed two stages and overall victory in the Tour of Belgium, won the GP Eddy Merckx event and finished second in Gent–Wevelgem. It was also during 1989 when Yates tested positive in a doping test in the first stage of Torhout-Werchter. In 1991 he joined fellow US outfit, Motorola. It was during his time here where he rode and mentored a talented young rider called Lance Armstrong. From a Grand Tour perspective Yates reached his zenith in 1994 when he wore the 'Maillot Jaune' for the day. This alone sets him aside from most other riders. From a riding perspective Yates was a powerful cyclist on flat stages and a noted descender during mountain stages; indeed for his size he could climb well. 2 years later Yates hung up his cleats and retired from racing.

Yates immediately entered Team Management, running the Linda McCartney Racing Team, which competed at the Giro d'Italia. He stayed until 2001 when the team disbanded. Thereafter Yates helped set up the Australian team Nova, but left after funding dried up. After a six month sabbatical he joined Team CSC-Tiscali before moving to Discovery in 2005 following an invitation from his former team mate Lance Armstrong. In June 2007, Yates became manager of Team Discovery a USA team, coinciding with his decision to cease racing as a veteran due to heart-beat irregularities. A year later he switched teams again and managed riders at the Astana cycling team. 

In 2009 Yates turned his attention closer to home and was signed up as Senior Sports Director for the newly formed 'Team Sky', the increasingly formidable British based pro cycling team intent on providing the nations first Tour De France winner. Who better to have at the helm than a British rider who had worn the coveted yellow jersey? In addition, that year Yates was also inducted into the British Cycling Hall of Fame. 

The Team Sky project is his biggest challenge to date. Of leading Team Sky, Yates explains, "In 2011 especially, the wins came thick and fast and we were able to get our guys into position time and time again." he continues, saying, "The team as a whole was super-strong and one of the best in the world, without a doubt.” the team has gotten stronger in 2012 and underlines Sky's intention to dominate as a professional cycling team. He adds, “As far as going better than this year - one certainly hopes we can do that but you can’t under-estimate that the pressure will be greater too,” and continues, “We’ve reinforced the squad; on paper we should be stronger and we’ve also got Froomey who has stepped up a level too. Some great riders are coming forward, you’ve got Cav as well so the sky’s the limit.” Only time will tell whether Yates' input to Team Sky will bare a British winner of the Tour de France, but the indications are encouraging. We'll have to wait until the Summer to see if one of his team can emulate, and maybe surpass his own efforts during the Tour. 

Sources -

Words - bikebritain ltd

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