Yates wins first Grand Tour and the first for an Australian-owned men’s team

Sun 16 Sep 2018

26-year-old Simon Yates has rolled across the line in Madrid to claim his maiden Grand Tour at the La Vuelta a Espana, creating history in the process as the first Grand Tour victory for an Australian-owned team, Mitchelton-SCOTT

After winning three stages and wearing the Maglia Rosa for 13 days at the Giro d’Italia, Yates once again won a stage and led the Spanish Grand Tour for ten-days, but this time a more conservative strategy saw him take the jersey all the way to the final day in Madrid. 

Conservative flair:
With the lessons of the Giro d’Italia fresh in the mind, Mitchelton-SCOTT set off from the Malaga in the south of Spain three weeks ago with a conservative strategy for its eight-rider team.

Albeit frustrating at times, Yates and the Australian team played their cards to perfection whilst keeping an element of their trademark flair. 

An ‘accidental’ attack on stage four was a glimpse of Yates’ form before he moved into the race lead on stage nine. Relinquishing the jersey three days later to ease the pressure, it was back on the Briton’s back with an impressive stage 14 victory.  Holding it into the final weekend of racing, Yates defending in the only way he knows, attacking on the final two mountain stages to secure the victory.

The team also held back the likes of Adam Yates who became crucial for twin Simon in the final week of racing.

History making for Australia:
The 2018 Vuelta a Espana marks the first ever Grand Tour victory for Mitchelton-SCOTT and an Australian-owned team. 

Formed in 2012 as GreenEDGE Cycling, the outfit conquered week-long races and four of cycling’s five Monuments before taking an ambitious general classification focus in recent years in pursuit of a Grand Tour victory. 

In 2014, the team signed three young climbing potentials in the Yates twins and Colombian Esteban Chaves with the ambition of building from the ground up. 

After a second place at the Giro d’Italia, third at the Vuelta a Espana and fourth at the Tour de France in 2016, plus four other top-10 Grand Tour results since the project began, the 2018 Vuelta a Espana has provided the breakthrough with young talent promising more to come.

An incredible season for Yates:
With some big races, including the world championships, to come, 2018 has already been a significant breakthrough for Yates.

The Briton won a stage at Paris-Nice and Volta Cyclista a Catalunya in preparation for the Giro d’Italia where he won three stages during a 13-day stint in the Maglia Rosa. 

Returning to racing at the Tour of Poland ahead of the Vuelta a Espana, the 26-year-old again claimed a stage victory, riding himself into second overall to match his performance at Paris-Nice earlier in the season.

His stage 14 win and overall victory gives Yates eight wins this year and a total of 23 days in a Grand Tour lead.

The final stage:
The jersey winners and the whole Mitchelton-SCOTT outfit toasted a successful Vuelta a Espana on approach to the finishing circuit in Madrid before the race in earnest began. 

Despite multiple attempts no one managed to get too much distance on the peloton, and an expected bunch sprint resulted with Elia Viviani (Quickstep Floors) the victor and Matteo Trentin finishing eighth for Mitchelton-SCOTT. 

Simon Yates:
“It feels great. Really unbelievable, I think it’s still sinking in. I have no words, it’s just really unbelievable. I like to race on my instinct and I hope that I continue to do so and achieve more big results like today at the Vuelta a Espana."

“The day I won on stage 14 is probably my favourite moment from the race, getting your hands in the air, there’s no feeling like winning a bike race and that will hold a special place, but also the first stage in Andorra.

“That was the first day I laid everything on the line to try and win this race and I managed to get a bit of a gap and you start to believe that you may have it, so those two days really stand out for me.

“I came back from real heartbreak from the Giro d’Italia and I am still in shock that I’ve managed to pull it off and it will take a while for it to sink in just what we’ve accomplished. I get really nervous up on the stage, but it was a very special moment that I will cherish forever.”

Julian Dean – Sport Director:
“We started this Vuelta a Espana looking to develop Sinon and as a team and improve on the mistakes we have made in the past. We haven’t fixed everything yet, but we’ve certainly made some improvements and I was saying to Gerry in the car during the stage today that it’s really good that we won, but it is also good that there’s lots of things I can pick out straight away that we can keep on improving on.”

“I feel like I’ve come in at the right time more than anything and that I’ve been able to bring in a little of what I’m about to this whole group. I was looking through our objectives at the start of the race and they were that we needed to be precise and calculated.

“Looking back at yesterday’s stage and we were exactly that. Simon was the best of everybody on every stage apart from yesterday and he wasn’t quite as good as everyone else, but that means he got it exactly right because he was still there or thereabouts.

“We did good and one of the best things was that the boys yesterday, some of them were out of their normal terrain, but they weren’t scared, they were there and committed when they needed to be. They were great.

“Simon is clearly still developing, and he’s made massive progression this year. I think even to progress from how he raced at the Giro to here in such a short space of time, is really testament to his willingness to learn. There’s still a few things we could improve upon with Simon and when he starts to understand those things, this kind of result will be repeatable.”

Gerry Ryan – Team Owner:
“To be here in 2018, winning our first Grand Tour is unbelievable, but also believable because we just did it. The last few years we’ve evolved as a GC team and I am sure that this is the first of many to come, it is very hard to do, but we will try.

“I always say dare to dream and if you want success, surround yourself with people that share the same vision and have the same passion. When Shayne and I first sat down, and we said ok, let’s get some people around us – Matt White, Neil Stephens and it grew from there.”

“We have come close a couple of times before and Julian and I in the team car today didn’t really get excited until three kilometres to go until we knew we were safe. More importantly it’s great to see the families here, because we are one big family. Simon, all his teammates and all the staff. It’s a great family.”

Read the reactions from all eight riders here.

La Vuelta – Stage 21 Results:
1. Elia Vivani (Quickstep Floors) 2:21:28
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) ST
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) ST
8. Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST 

La Vuelta – FINAL General Classification:
1. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 82:05:58
2. Enric Mas (Quickstep Floors) +1:46
3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) +2:04

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.