Simon Yates tempers expectations ahead of first pro season with Orica-GreenEdge
Simon Yates is refusing to set targets for his first season as a professional cyclist.
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 15/11/13 2:05pm
The 21-year-old Englishman has a signed a two-year neo-pro contract with Australian WorldTour team Orica-GreenEdge following an impressive 2013 in which he won a world title on the track and finished third overall at the Tour of Britain.
Yates, whose twin brother, Adam, has also joined Orica-GreenEdge, has been described by Sir Bradley Wiggins as his country's "next star" and is widely tipped to become a standard-bearer for British road cycling once the likes of Wiggins and Chris Froome have retired.
The Lancastrian is excited by the prospect of turning professional and embarking on that journey, but is keen not to place too much expectation and pressure on himself.
"I can't wait," he told Sky Sports. "In the next couple of weeks we fly over to Australia for a team gathering and sort out the plans for next year. It is a really exciting time.
"I haven't really got any concrete ambitions or expectations that I am placing on myself. I think 2014 will just be a case of trying to find my place in the WorldTour peloton and try and work out what path I want to take and the rider I want to be.
"It is a big step up to a whole new level. Hopefully I can help the team achieve its goals and do my bit for the more established riders. They are seasoned professionals and I am looking forward to working with them and learning from them."
That Yates is willing to temper his ambitions for 2014 is impressive given that the past 10 months have seen him regularly exceed all expectation.
His 2013 season began with a stunning gold medal in the points race at the Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk in February and continued with two stage wins in the prestigious Tour de l'Avenir, which is seen as the Tour de France for under-23s and is the premier proving ground for up-and-coming young riders.
'Worked out perfectly'
Yates then out-climbed the likes of Wiggins and Tour de France king of the mountains Nairo Quintana on the way to winning the Tour of Britain's first ever summit finish in September, a result that helped place him on the final overall podium alongside winner Wiggins.
"As seasons go, 2013 worked out perfectly," Yates added. "Once I had the confidence from winning the world title on the track, everything just snowballed for me and the results just kept coming. It far exceeded my expectations.
"There were so many highlights. To win in Minsk means I am forever going to be a world champion and nobody can ever take that away from me.
"But equally, to win a stage of the Tour of Britain and finish overall is up there as well. To stand on the final podium with Brad - a British cycling hero and one of the guys who has been there and done everything - that was a huge honour."
Orica see double
To Yates's two stage wins at the Tour de l'Avenir, brother Adam added a second place in the final general classification, prompting some of the biggest teams in world cycling to express an interest in the twins.
Team Sky and FDJ were both reported to be among the duo's suitors, but it was an approach from Orica-GreenEdge that held the most appeal.
Simon explained: "One or two other teams showed interest but, with the option of me and my brother both signing together, it made the decision a lot easier. There were a few other factors, but that was the main one.
"I have only just started racing with Adam again after being apart for three years, so it is not a problem being separated, but I think we work better when we are together and it makes life a lot easier."
With a track world title on his palmares, it is impossible not to wonder if Yates could make a return to the boards, particularly with the Rio Olympics now on the horizon.
Track on hold
He refuses to rule the possibility out, but with a two-year contract at Orica-GreenEdge to honour, he is doubtful it will happen in the current Olympic cycle.
"I would never say never," he said. "But I think with the way the events work on the track and with the Olympics looming, there aren't really any openings for myself on the track. I am more of a bunch racer and it is a real hard task to get in the team for the other events.
"It would be a tall order for me to get in the team, so for the next couple of years I will concentrate on the road and take it from there.
"Rio is still quite a long way away. I will wait to get these first couple of years at Orica-GreenEdge out of the way and then start re-setting my targets at that point."