Simon Yates is hoping a little bit of local knowledge will help cap a week to remember as the Tour de France rolls up and over the hills he's been using as his training route for years.
The 21-year-old, who rides for Orica-GreenEdge and was last weekend competing in the National Road Championships in Abergavenny, will line up as one of only four Brits for the Grand Depart of this year's Tour in Leeds on Saturday.
And, while admitting the whirlwind nature of his call-up to the Australian team's Tour de France squad has been ‘surreal’, Yates says he is ready to help teammate Simon Gerrans snatch early control of the yellow jersey when the race hits the hills between York and Sheffield.
He said: “I’m really nervous if I’m honest. With it being such a big opportunity, I am looking forward to it getting on.
“I’m here to help Simon Gerrans on the stages like stage two with the really hard terrain where hopefully I should get over the climb and then be there to help out at the finish.
“If it’s quite a select group then there shouldn’t be too many guys there to help so that’s my role. Hopefully I can pass a bit of knowledge onto the rest of the team.”
Yates, whose twin brother Adam also rides for Orica-GreenEdge but has not been selected in their nine-man Tour team, revealed he had expected to race in next month’s Tour of Poland following an early season setback at the Tour of Turkey in which he crashed out with a broken collarbone.
He said: “I had an early season break and ever since then I’ve been training hard and really with the aim of coming back and doing well at the Tour of Poland. I was going well at the National Championships last weekend but it was a bit of surprise to get the call-up.
“Even from the start of the season I wasn’t expecting to do a Grand Tour and was maybe looking to next year to do the Vuelta or the Giro to start off but it’s such a big opportunity just to be here, I’m really happy.
“The longest race I’ve done is eight days so after that it is a case of taking it day-by-day. There is no pressure to finish; I’m just trying to help the team out where I can when we target those specific stages.
“Riding your first grand tour is a big experience and hopefully that will bring me on a lot. It’s a hard race, the biggest one we do all year and hopefully that will bring me on a bit for the future.”
The Bury-born cyclist, whose proud parents made the short drive from Greater Manchester to Leeds to drop him off at the starting point for this year's edition, admits one of his earliest memories of the Tour de France was the battle between Alberto Contador and Michael Rasmussen on the climbs of the 2007 race.
And with his Grand Tour apprenticeship set to be served alongside the Spaniard in this year's peloton, Yates admitted the former Tour champion’s style was something he was hoping to emulate.
He said: “One (memory) that really sticks out is Contador attacking Rasmussen because he was really going at it. That explosive style is the type of rider I want to develop into.
“I’ve got a lot of favourite riders, I’m still a fan of the sport because I’ve only been a pro for half a year but certainly those type of explosive riders are really exciting to watch.”
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