It was at the midway point of this year's Tour de France that I heard on the grapevine that the Yateses, the Yates brothers, the Yates twins, or just Adam and Simon, would not be heading to Team Sky, as I always imagined they would, but almost certainly staying with their incumbent.
"The Yateses have already accomplished so much - yet almost certainly, had they joined Team Sky, none of this would have been possible."
I heard that they were more than happy at what is now Orica-BikeExchange, the team where they began their professional careers back in 2014. Unusually, after superior performances at the 2013 Tour de l'Avenir (Adam finished second overall, while Simon won two of the hardest stages), I learned that Team Sky offered neither a fully-fledged contract: "Well, straight away, Orica came in," Adam, in an interview with The Cycling Podcast at the end of the 2015 season, told journalist Lionel Birnie.
"It was pretty much after l'Avenir, actually. They were super-interested, and set out a plan we both wanted and they wanted. So it was pretty easy to make that decision (to sign with them). It's showed: they trusted us to get results, and we did our best to get those results... and you can see so far it's worked (out) pretty well."
"For me, there was an option to (be a) stagiaire (at Team Sky)," said Simon, "but there was never a concrete offer, I don't thnk. There was talk of an offer going around with my manager Andrew (McQuaid), but I don't think it ever fully materialised until we sort of agreed with Orica. But at that moment I don't think I would've changed. As Adam said, there was a plan that was already given to us; (they told us) 'This is what we have in store for you the next two years. This is how we want you to develop. This is what we see in your future.' And that was one of the biggest appeals. I think you see that in all the young riders that we have in the team now. Look at Esteban (Chaves)."
The obvious, and logical, choice, it seemed, was Team Sky. A team whose budget that, according to a July report in L'Equipe, outnumbers Orica-BikeExchange (OBE) by almost three-to-one: 35 million Euros versus €13M. But apart from exceptions like Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe and Ian Boswell, when it comes to nurturing the young, the team does not have a history of best practice. (In fairness, Sky is not a team for that; it is a team based around one single-minded proposition: to win the Tour de France, which they've been rather good at.)
If at Team Sky, would either have got to ride a Grand Tour in their first year? Almost certainly not. Would they have been given leadership opportunities in their first year including WorldTour races like the Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian, which, had he not fallen, Adam almost won? Almost certainly not. Would they, in their second year, have got to ride the Tour de France together, and be granted carte blanche to go in breakaways? Almost certainly not. As happened this year, would one have got to experience a leadership role at the Tour with no pressure other than that put upon himself? Almost certainly not.
"We don't want to be sold as a pair. We're individual people, individual riders. We might be very similar riders but we offer different things."
When one considers they are still just 24 years young, the Yateses have already accomplished so much - yet almost certainly, had they joined Team Sky, none of this would have been possible. Not only that, and perhaps more importantly, they wouldn't have realised what is possible. Now, the sky, not Team Sky, is their limit. "I'm ready to target a podium spot in the Grand Tours and with the support and environment the team gives me, I think we can achieve it," said Adam, who, along with Simon, yesterday announced a two-year contract extension, having finished the Tour fourth overall.
"They have showed their faith in me from the start and I've been able to benefit from the experience of riding key races as a protected leader - that's an opportunity that doesn't exist too often in your first years as a professional," Simon said, who this year served a four-month ban for "non-intentional doping". (According to the team, who took full responsibility for his positive test for banned substance terbutaline during an in-competition test at Paris-Nice, the team's doctor failed to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption for an asthma inhaler used by Yates.) "Together with Adam and Esteban he gives us that extra depth that will put us in a powerful position in any of the big tours that we target across the calendar," Matt White, OBE's head sports director, said.
It might also be White's uncanny ability to grant almost everyone a chance and treat each as individuals that spurred the Yates twins to stay where they are. "When we first turned pro, we made the decision to have different managers. We don't want to be sold as a pair," Simon told The Cycling Podcast. "We're individual people, individual riders. We might be very similar riders but we do offer different things."
With Chaves close to winning this year's Giro d'Italia and Adam's superlative performance in July, along with the former once again targeting GC, this time at the upcoming Vuelta a España, which begins Saturday, this is a very different outfit to the one that made its history-making WorldTour debut four years ago.
It has come at the huge expense of losing one of the most exciting one-day talents in Michael Matthews. (I still believe they should've done whatever necessary to keep him.) Nevertheless, this new-look OBE feels more focused, more assured, and ready to take on - and win - just about any race in the world. Said Adam back in November last year: "You see the team win so many races with all different kinds of riders, so it's never one person always winning. If it's your time to shine, everyone works 100 per cent for you."
That much hasn't changed, and probably never will.