Adam Yates: Can he win the Tour de France in future and how?
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 03/11/16 1:39pm
Although Chris Froome has won the yellow jersey, Adam Yates has been the revelation of this year’s Tour de France.
The 23-year-old finished fourth overall, just 4min 42sec down on Froome, and also became the first Briton to win the best young rider's white jersey after an outstanding three weeks of racing.
We look at how he got to this point and where he could go next…
Yates cut his teeth in cycling the hard way, by moving over to Europe as a teenager and making a name for himself with a series of impressive results in the amateur ranks.
By far his most eye-catching display was a second-place finish in the 2013 edition of the Tour de l'Avenir, which is effectively the Tour de France for juniors and is widely seen as the premier proving ground for up-and-coming talent. Nairo Quintana is among its former winners.
Together with his twin brother, Simon, Yates turned professional with Orica-GreenEdge in 2014 on a two-year contract.
He finished top of the youth classification and an impressive 11th overall in his first race, the hilly Tour de San Luis in Argentina, and then claimed his first professional victories by winning a stage and the overall title at the Tour of Turkey.
He made his grand tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana later that year, finishing 82nd, and the made his Tour debut in 2015, finishing 50th.
A week after the 2015 Tour ended, he stunned the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez and Dan Martin to claim his first UCI WorldTour win, at the Clasica San Sebastian one-day race, after a solo attack on the final climb.
Fourth at the Tour
Given his amateur and early professional results, Yates was fancied to challenge for grand tour podiums at some stage in his career but no one expected it this year, least of all himself.
He went into the Tour targeting stage wins out of breakaways and it was only midway through the race, when he was sat third overall, that he finally acknowledged he was in the general classification reckoning.
He ended up becoming only the fourth Briton ever to finish in the top four at the Tour and in the process announced himself as the brightest young talent in cycling.
The inevitable question to be asked now is whether Yates can win the Tour in the future? The answer is clearly yes given the talent he has displayed in the past three weeks, but he is far from a finished article and there are several aspects of his riding that he needs to develop.
Chief among them is time-trialling. Yates lost a combined total of 3min 21sec to Froome in the Tour's two time trials and a rider will rarely win a grand tour with that sort of handicap.
He has worked hard on the discipline over the past year and will no doubt continue to do so, but his small and light frame will always mean he cannot produce the same amount of power as a taller, bigger rider such as Froome or Sir Bradley Wiggins and any improvements he makes will therefore only be marginal.
Spain's Rodriguez has exactly the same the problem and has lost more than one grand tour on account of his poor time-trialling, while it is also an Achilles' heel for Nairo Quintana.
To win the Tour, Yates would therefore need a route that is light on time-trialling - like last year's was - or one with only mountain time trials, to stand a realistic chance of victory.
He also has ground to make up in his climbing. He is already one of the best in the world uphill but isn't yet able to match the electric accelerations of riders like Froome and Richie Porte, and if you're not the best climber, it will be tough to win a grand tour.
But improvements in his climbing should come with maturity. He is still only 23, which gives him plenty of time to develop when you consider that Froome was 28 when he won his first Tour and Wiggins was 32 when he triumphed in 2012.
And Yates can also take encouragement from the fact this year's Tour proved he has the required level of endurance in both body and mind to sustain a challenge over three weeks.
When Froome retires, there is no question that Britain has a rider ready to take on his mantle.