CRAIG NELSON: Simon Yates Tour de France call-up what sporting dreams are made of
8:20am Saturday 5th July 2014 in Sport
SIMON Yates admitted that while he is physically ready to make his shock debut in the Tour de France, mentally he is far from prepared.
How could he be? When the 21-year-old Bury rider picked up a chance call from his Orica GreenEdge team this week, he was expecting it to be about next month’s Tour of Poland.
Instead, five minutes after putting the phone down, he was frantically packing a bag ready to join the greatest cycling show on Earth.
The circus that greeted him at the grand launch in Leeds on Thursday night would have been a far cry from anything he has experienced so far in his career.
But while the flashbulbs of the publicity event were just a precursor to the gruelling three weeks that lie ahead of him, Yates may yet surprise himself when he finally gets in the saddle today.
For one thing, he has not had too far to go to join up with the Tour de France roadshow – just a 40-minute drive over the Pennines with his mum.
And the fact that tomorrow’s second stage will take Yates into home territory – over a series of climbs he has done time and time again in training – will surely help him settle into the event.
But unlike all the best sports films, the life-changing phone call the rookie pro took this week did not come completely out of the blue.
Sure, it was a surprise, but it was a moment Yates has been working towards since he was teenager.
He would have had that conversation a million times in his mind as he powered up the same climbs with his Bury Clarion training group that he will navigate in the peleton tomorrow.
Simon and his twin brother Adam – who rides for the same Australian team – will have talked endlessly about one day taking part in the Tour de France.
The dream moved a step closer when he signed professional terms for the first time last year.
And a third place in the 2013 Tour of Britain highlighted his potential, while another podium finish in the British national road race last weekend proved his fitness.
The only shock in the Yates household may have been that it was not brother Adam who was given the nod.
He has been in startling form this year after winning the Tour of Turkey and finishing sixth in the Criterium du Dauphine – the Tour’s traditional curtain-raiser.
Simon broke his collarbone in the race in Turkey and has only had three races back since recovering from that fall.
Any remaining aches and pains will have been blown away by the adrenalin of this week’s phone call.
All that remains to find out is if his shoulders are strong enough to carry the weight of expectations that go with being the only English-born rider in the race.