• Yates we can? Is the nurturing of the Yates twins akin to sleeping with the enemy? (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
That Orica-GreenEDGE is morphing from a team focused on one-day Classics, week-long stage races and stage victories to something more ambitious is a good thing. Anthony Tan wonders, though, if they're doing it with the right riders.
12 Aug 2015 - 9:01 AM  UPDATED 12 Aug 2015 - 9:10 AM

Monday last, when Orica-GreenEDGE announced the signing of Danish time trial champion Christopher Juul-Jensen, head sports director Matt White said: "We are evolving over time into a team that rides for general classification and he (Juul-Jensen) has that experience of being part of a winning team. That's a key reason why we see him as so valuable.

"I also really believe we are far from seeing him at his best, so we want to develop and give him opportunities for himself, too. That's the key to our team - we give young riders opportunities."

On 2 October 2013, two young riders afforded such an opportunity were British brothers Adam and Simon Yates.

With an impressive showing at that year's Tour de l'Avenir, otherwise known as 'The Race of the Future' for its uncanny ability to showcase the next big things, and unearth future Tour de France contenders - Adam finished second overall to Spain's Rubén Fernández, while Simon won two mountain stages - the identical twins fielded a number of offers, but Orica-GreenEDGE "was our first choice" said Adam back then, at the time of the announcement.

"When we decided to turn pro next year, we knew GreenEDGE was one of the best teams for us both. It's a good opportunity in terms of development. From everything we've heard and seen, we know the team looks after their young guys very well."

"There's no firm commitment that what Orica-GreenEDGE are doing for the Yates brothers now is going to pay back in five years' time." - Rob Arnold, publishing editor RIDE Cycling Review

"This seemed like the right place for us," Simon confirmed. "Knowing the way the team has developed the other young Aussies was an important part of our decision. Look at Cam Meyer. He came from the track just like us, and he's already achieved quite a lot on the road. We'd love to develop the way he has."

Said OGE general manager Shayne Bannan: "It's clear they're both big talents. We're very excited to be a part of their development."

"I expect them to develop fairly quickly," he added. "They've spent a number of years racing in Europe already, so their progression is rather advanced. I'm confident that we'll see some really good things from them in the future."

Develop quickly they did. In two short years, the Yates twins, who turned 23 years old last Friday, have already shown mucho.

In 2014, their neo-pro year, Adam won a stage and the overall classification at the Tour of Turkey, the GP Industria & Artigianato di Larciano one-day race, and finished in the top ten at the Tour of California, Giro di Toscana and Critérium du Dauphiné. Simon, the 2013 points race world champion, won the mountains classification at the Tour of Alberta, finished on the podium in his first national road championship (behind Peter Kennaugh and Ben Swift), and was best young rider and seventh overall at the Tour of Slovenia. With five days' notice he also rode his first Tour de France, featuring in two breakaways before being withdrawn by the team on the second rest day.

Ninth overall at Tirreno–Adriatico saw Adam's 2015 season take off smoothly, while Simon shone in April and June with top tens at the Tour of the Basque Country, Tour de Romandie, and a month before the pair rode the Tour, Critérium du Dauphiné, where he finished fifth overall and best young rider. Given their exalted company and the team's spate of misfortune in the opening week, it's little surprise that a stage victory eluded them - but at the same time, also no abberation to see them ride like their more senior counterparts; as if they felt they were always meant to be there.

Just one week later at the Clásica de San Sebastián, confirmation: on the final climb of the 219 kilometre race, Adam, who was riding with Simon, attacked some of the best one-day specialists in the world and through equals parts derring-do and strength, held off all and sundry on a twisting descent to claim his first WorldTour win.

In last Thursday's podcast on Cycling Central, the subject of the 'Yates boys', as White likes to call them, came up in a conversation about development pathways. (Merci, Al Hinds, for raising the subject and giving me something to write about in an otherwise slow news week.)

"There was talk, among British journalists at the Tour, that it is inevitable, if the Sky team continues, that they will end up there," podcast regular Rob Arnold, publishing editor of RIDE Cycling Review, said.

"Orica-GreenEDGE, even if they do all the right things by these guys (...) There's no firm commitment that what Orica-GreenEDGE are doing for the Yates brothers now is going to pay back in five years' time... unless they're contracted for five to six years - which they're not. It's a gamble, isn't it? It's just a gamble."

The thing is, it's not just a gamble with the Yates twins.

"The nurturing of Yates boys is akin to the Waugh brothers playing for England in the Ashes."

With seventeen riders from Orica-GreenEDGE out of contract by season's end and change afoot to morph the outfit into one more GC-focused, with a clear view to provide more support to the Yateses and Esteban Chaves, it's a gamble for the entire team, and quite possibly, the team's future. A 25-year-old from Colombia, Chaves is a different kettle of fish. There is no Colombian WorldTour team and that doesn't look like changing anytime soon, which explains why you have Nairo Quintana at Movistar, Rigoberto Urán at Etixx-Quick Step, and cousins Sebastián and Sergio Henao at Team Sky. He looks safe, for now.

As for the Yates twins, while it might be the perfect place for them today - remember what Adam said two years ago: "It's a good opportunity in terms of development" - their future at OGE is much less assured. "I'm not really ready to name my own aspirations," said Simon, back in October 2013. "I see these first years as being all about development. I want to help the team however I can and absorb as much as I can in the process. There will be time later to hone in on my own goals."

And when that time later comes, where will they be?

Granted, such is the fickle nature of professional cycling that fidelity often comes a distant second to currency, unless you ride for Française des Jeux and have been swept off your feet by general manager Marc Madiot's charisma. Still, I can't help but feel that the nurturing of Yates boys, at great expense to OGE, is akin to the Waugh brothers playing for England in the Ashes.

Let me put it another way: Would Richie Porte be leaving Team Sky if he were British?

With an annual budget more than A$50 million and having produced three of the last four winners of La Grande Boucle, don't the Poms have enough of a head start?