Cycling Weekly - - CW AWARDS -

Un­til this year Si­mon Yates had never worn a Grand Tour leader’s jer­sey. By mid-septem­ber, he’d had 23 days’ ex­pe­ri­ence — that’s 23 times the amount most riders even dare dream of for their own ca­reers.

From May to Septem­ber he en­ter­tained us all as he jousted and skir­mished, bobbed and weaved, suf­fered glory and de­feat and fi­nally won his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Es­paña. It surely won’t be his last.

Well be­fore he started the Span­ish race, he’d al­ready estab­lished him­self as a fan favourite at the Giro. His lengthy ten­ure in pink never got bor­ing, for he more than did jus­tice to what many de­scribe as the most beau­ti­ful of Grand Tours.

His at­tack­ing style yielded three wins in Italy — firstly on the huge Gran Sasso d’italia, fol­lowed by a per­haps ex­pected strike on the short, steep fin­ish into Osimo on stage nine. Per­haps even more im­pres­sive was his 41-sec­ond solo win at Sap­pada. At that point, more than two min­utes ahead on GC, it was hard to see past him even with the threat from Sun­web’s Tom Du­moulin in the fol­low­ing week’s time trial. But he lost no fans when he did fi­nally col­lapse SI­MON YATES’S GRAND TOUR RE­PORT CARD 2014: Tour de France, DNF, 6/10: A very solid de­but per­for­mance. 2015: Tour de France, 89th, 7/10: Nu­mer­ous top-15 fin­ishes, in­clud­ing 11th at Alpe d’huez. 2016: Vuelta a Es­paña, 6th, 9/10: Announces him­self as a bona fide con­tender.

2017: Tour de France, 7th, 8/10: Very con­sis­tent ride that nets Yates sev­enth on GC.

Vuelta a Es­paña, 44th, 6/10: Solid ride in sup­port of brother Adam and Este­ban Chaves.

2018: Giro d’italia, 21st, 9/10: Yates comes of age with an ag­gres­sive, at­tack­ing ride, al­most wins. Vuelta a Es­paña, 1st, 10/10: Fi­nally does what we al­ways knew he would even­tu­ally. on the Finestre — we like our win­ners hu­man, af­ter all.

Now, Yates is a low-key kind of guy and the Vuelta is a low-key kind of race. So when the boy from Bury sneaked into the lead of the Span­ish race on stage nine, tak­ing over from FDJ’S Rudy Mo­lard af­ter fin­ish­ing ninth and 2.49 back on stage win­ner Ale­jan­dro Valverde (Mo­vis­tar), it fell un­der the radar.

There were no vir­tu­oso stage wins, at least for the mo­ment, and on stage 12 he even gave the jer­sey away in a tac­ti­cal re­treat af­ter the bunch trailed in more than 11 min­utes be­hind the break­away.

When Yates re­claimed the jer­sey with a sum­mit vic­tory at Nava on stage 14, our at­ten­tion was piqued again as we watched him de­fend the leader’s jer­sey all the way to Madrid, tak­ing a trio of top-three stage fin­ishes along the way.

That a Bri­tish rider who has won his first Grand Tour in such en­ter­tain­ing fash­ion still doesn’t win our Rider of the Year com­pe­ti­tion only goes to show how good Bri­tish fans have had it in 2018.

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