Solo Move by Simon Yates on Pais Vasco Stage Four Final Climb

Thu 10 Apr 2014

ORICA-GreenEDGE neo-pro Simon Yates continues to put his developing climbing prowess to impressive use. The 21-year-old briefly led the fourth stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco solo, coming off Pieter Weening’s wheel to lead into the lower slopes of the final climb of Usartza. Weening propped Yates up the road ahead of the category one climb, giving the Brit an 8” advantage over the reduced bunch that included the overall contenders and the mountain goats.

“The boys initiated that move,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “It was a great effort. Pieter’s main job for the day was to make sure that Simon was well looked after coming into the town of Eibar. When the race hits that point, it’s always difficult with narrow roads, round-abouts, and lots of pushing and shoving.

“When they came into Eibar, Pete said: ‘Look, if we’re near the front, we might as well go off the front’ – and that’s what they did,” Stephens continued. “Pete told Simon to ride within himself and wait for the group to come back to him. That way if there was an attack off front after he was caught, he still had some energy left to try to go for it.”

“It always takes more effort to stay away than to stay in the bunch,” Stephens added. “But Simon didn’t give it everything to hold off the group. He saved something to follow once he was caught.”

Although Yates wasn’t able to respond to the race winning move made by Wout Poels on the upper slopes of the final climb, he finished a respectable 17th place on the stage, 45” behind the Omega Pharma Quick-Step rider who soloed to victory in Arrate. Yates’ efforts afforded him a jump up the overall classification from 21st place to 17th overall, 58” behind race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and a firm grasp on the lead in the best young rider competition.

“I suspect in a year or two, Simon will be fighting for the win on a stage like today,” said Stephens. “He was really eager to ride hard for the stage rather than conserve a little and protect his place on the general classification. He’s not used to riding for the overall.”

ORICA-GreenEDGE started the day one man short as Gerrans withdrew from the Basque tour ahead of stage four. An integral part of Michael Matthew’s stage victory on Wednesday, Gerrans exits on a high note ahead of his objectives at the Ardennes Classics."

“Simon came here as part of his preparation for the Ardennes,” said Stephens. “He contributed in a fantastic way to the team’s victory yesterday and sharpened up the race legs with four days of racing in Basque Country. It was a planned withdrawal today, and we wish him all the best for the Ardennes.”

The Australian outfit is lucky to be only one rider down with three stages left to race. Christian Meier was involved in a heavy crash during the stage four early action. The Canadian managed to fight his way to the finish.

“He’s lost skin on his knees, elbow and ankle – a bit of skin everywhere, actually,” said Stephens. “He’s elbow was pretty swollen at one point. He’s a tough guy, and he decided he was alright to ride.”