Adam Yates sees opportunity in riding as wingman to Tadej Pogačar

British all-rounder insists there's plenty of room to race to win in the ever-deeper UAE Team Emirates.

Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

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Adam Yates is perhaps cycling’s most under-the-radar rider in the elite men’s peloton.

When he’s on form, he’s among the best in the world. Yet after blazing to fourth overall in 2016 Tour de France, it’s too often been a story of one step forward and two steps back for the highly talented British all-rounder.

Be it injuries, illness, crashes, team politics, or even collapsing race archways, Yates often times seems stopped short of hitting his maximum potential.

Yates isn’t sweating those details, and he’s expecting a high-profile move to UAE Team Emirates on a three-year deal to see plenty of chances to keep winning.

“When I race, I race to contend for the win,” Yates said. “Maybe it hasn’t gone 100 percent at the grand tours, I am among the best when I am at my best. Last year, I had some illness in some key moments of the calendar.”

Now 30, Yates is at the peak of his powers, and he’s confident the move from Ineos Grenadiers to UAE Team Emirates will open up more space on the calendar for him.

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Even the presence of two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar doesn’t give him pause.

“You got one superstar with Tadej, but behind him, there are a lot of other guys. You cannot have just one leader all the time,” Yates told a small group of journalists at a recent team camp. “These days you need a backup. If they need me to do something, I can step in.”

The prolific Slovenian is clearly at the gravitational center of the team, but UAE is quickly building out depth across its team.

Even with riders like João Almeida, Juan Ayuso, and Brandon McNulty, Yates knows he will see plenty of opportunities across the 2023 calendar.

Whether it’s playing wingman to Pogačar at the Tour and leading at other races, Yates is energized by the move.

“I am happy to get stuck in and race. I’d like to go to the big races to show myself. That’s what we train for,” he said. “Growing up as a young kid, you’re only thinking about putting your arms in the air.

A two-year stint at Ineos Grenadiers after moving on from the GreenEdge franchise saw Yates continue rocking between spells of some bad luck and ill-timed sicknesses and moments of unrivaled brilliance.

He missed out on the 2021 Tour de France and then fell ill with COVID-19 ahead of the start of the 2022 Tour. He still pushed on to hit ninth overall.

When he’s healthy, Yates is among the most lethal riders in the bunch, especially in one-week stage races. He won the Volta a Catalunya and the Deutschland Tour in 2022 in impressive fashion.

“I am not young anymore and I am getting older. I know what I need to do to get the best out of me. I am not fussy. If I am going well and I am in good shape, I like to get stuck in, it doesn’t matter what race it is.”

In fact, one-week stage races are his speciality, though he still hopes to hit a grand tour podium before his career is out. He was fourth in the 2021 Vuelta a España to match his fourth in the 2016 Tour.

“More stuff can go wrong in a grand tour,” Yates said when asked about the difference. “When you get to this level, it’s about not trying to make any silly mistakes. We did that this year at the Tour, and we didn’t make any mistakes, but there were some guys who were better than us.”

Yates: ‘Team cannot race without more than one leader’

Yates still hasn’t mapped out his 2023 calendar — or at least not publicly revealed it yet — but it’s likely he’ll head to the Tour de France in July as a wingman for Pogačar.

It’s not that Pogačar needs any help, but Yates says no team in the modern era can afford to build its entire calendar around one singular rider.

“Just because I changed teams doesn’t mean I come down a level,” Yates said. “Just like at Ineos, there were a lot of good riders at a high level, and we often went to a race with two or three leaders. People can get sick, crash. It’s silly these days not to go to a race without more than one leader.”

A high-profile move to UAE Team Emirates could see the British star finally and fully unshackled. Yates and the team are betting on it.

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