• To the winner go the spoils... Adam Yates. (GodingImages/AAP)Source: GodingImages/AAP
Saturday in the Spanish Basque Country, 22-year-old Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) claimed the biggest win of his fledgling career and first WorldTour victory at the Clásica San Sebastián.
By
Cycling Central

2 Aug 2015 - 12:13 PM  UPDATED 2 Aug 2015 - 12:38 PM

Just six days after completing his first Tour de France, the 2014 Tour of Turkey champion crossed the line in what only can be described as utter bemusement.

Attacking the peloton on the final ascent of the Alto de Jaizkibel with ten kilometres to go, then holding off a select group of favourites including defending champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), the noise of the crowd prevented him from confirming his position on the road with ORICA-GreenEDGE sport director Neil Stephens.

"In 2014, I went to the Tour of Basque Country, got sick and crashed. Last year's San Sebastian I crashed, and this year's Tour of Basque Country, I crashed again. Normally when I come here I don't do anything, just crash. It's fantastic." - Adam Yates

"Incredible," Yates said. "I won, but I didn't know I had won. I spoke on the radio to my sport director but because of the crowds the radio was too quiet.

"On the final climb there was a breakaway still up the road. Then there was a lot of carnage on the climb; there was a crash with a motorbike, and so I just went full gas. At the time I didn't know if I had reached the lead or not."

Fifteen seconds after Yates, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) won the select bunch sprint for second place, followed by Valverde. "Yates was really strong and we must congratulate him for that well-deserved victory," Valverde said.

"We knew he would be up there with the favourites, since he already showed he could do well before his crash last year, and today he timed his efforts perfectly and said 'here I am' to everyone. There wasn't much cooperation into my group either, and we had to fight for second place into the sprint."

Not happy Yvon...

While Gilbert was happy with his second runner-up place in four days, his team-mate Greg Van Avermaet, who collided with a motorbike on the Jaizkibel, was incensed.

Van Avermaet attacked on the last climb of the 219-kilometer race and had 15 seconds over his chasers when the TV moto ran into him from behind. "It was a steep climb and the moto driver was too close to me," he said.

"The bad thing is that I think I could have won the race. I had a big gap." - Greg Van Avermaet

"He ran right into the back of my bike. My frame was broken and my back wheel was broken. So the race was over for me. I don't know know what the moto driver was thinking. He did not say anything to me. Maybe he just gave it a little too much gas and ran into me.

"The bad thing is that I think I could have won the race. I had a big gap. Maybe Yates could have come back, but I think I still could have been there in the sprint. It is not every year you can win a classic like San Sebastian. So this is really disappointing."

Live TV coverage was interrupted by technical problems, with pictures only resuming after Yates' attack, and therefore did not show the incident involving Van Avermaet. "We are not at all happy with this," BMC sport director Yvon Ledanois said. "Greg had a good gap. If this does not happen, he wins the race and Philippe finishes second. No information was given on the radio about the crash, so we did not even know it had happened."

"Where is the UCI in all of this?" asked BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz.

"When he went there was just no response"...

Yates returned to the Spanish one-day race 12 months after riding himself into a winning position in the exact spot he was in Saturday, only to crash and suffer concussion on the final descent to the line. The British rider also crashed at the Tour of the Basque Country earlier in the season, raced nearby, and so was thrilled to redeem some unfinished business.

"Gilbert and Valverde were talking to our staff members at the podium and they said (Yates' attack) was unbelievable." - Neil Stephens, ORICA-GreenEDGE sport director 

""For sure, this is the biggest win of my career. And it's my first victory this year. In 2014, I went to the Tour of Basque Country, got sick and crashed; last year's San Sebastián I crashed, and this year's Tour of Basque Country, I crashed again. Normally when I come here I don't do anything, just crash. It's fantastic, hopefully I can come back next year and defend my title."

Stephens praised Yates' professionalism to ensure a quick turnaround from the Tour de France. "Coming into the last 20 kilometres we had five riders still in the race," he said.

"Pieter Weening said he was okay but that he would do the work (of a domestique). He was able to get Adam to a really good position, and from there Adam just showed he is in phenomenal form. The TV coverage went down so no one could see, but Gilbert and Valverde were talking to our staff members at the podium and they said (Yates' attack) was unbelievable. When he went there was just no response, and that was it.

"As soon as the Tour de France finished last week, Adam's preparation for the San Sebastian started. He has been really focused in training and the way he has looked after himself and he deserves the win."

How it happened...

A group of eight riders formed the initial move of the day but their advantage was kept in check by Team Movistar, and thus never appeared to threaten the chances of those in the peloton. With 60km to go, the leaders hit the Alto de Jaizkibel climb for the second time with an advantage of just two minutes. Behind, the counter-attacks began.

The initial counter involved four riders, before a further group of six also took off. When the various moves coalesced to make a new lead group of 16 riders, Team Katusha joined Movistar in the peloton's chase, and with around 30km to go the race was back together. Another group of nine riders escaped prior to the final climb of the Jaizkibel but shredded on the ascent, whilst others including Van Avermaet were hindered by a motorbike accident.

An attack from the peloton by Adam Yates saw the Orica-GreenEDGE rider crest the peak with a narrow 10-second lead. With the chase group containing Valverde, Gilbert and Joaquim Rodríguez playing cat-and-mouse behind, Yates held on for a 15-second solo victory.