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UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — Chris Froome is racing for the win in the Tour de France, which began today in Utrecht, but another British storm is quietly brewing in colors different than Sky’s black and blue.
If the young twins Adam and Simon Yates were not already in the spotlight, they will be after beginning the Tour together for the first time.
The duo blasted through the Under 23 ranks with wins in the Tour de L’Avenir and the Tour of Britain, and surprised many when they signed for the Australian team Orica-GreenEdge, for 2014. Last year, they kept going strongly at the WorldTour level: Adam won the Tour of Turkey and placed sixth at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and Simon 12th in the País Vasco and debuted at the Tour. Now, for the first time, they are both in the Tour peloton, and wearing the same colors.
Sky general manager David Brailsford told VeloNews last year that ultimately he’d like to have the British twins on his British squad. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out,” he said. “At a certain point in time, we’d like to think they’d ride for Sky.”
The Yates, instead, have extended their contracts with Orica through 2016. Along with Colombian Esteban Chaves, they are the team’s grand-tour hopes.
During the first half of 2015, the twins have continued to prove that they are likely the next big thing out of Great Britain, ready to take the spotlight from Froome and classics star Geraint Thomas. Adam rode to ninth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and last month, Simon placed fifth behind Froome in the Dauphiné.
“In the Tour, we are not going for the overall. The idea is to win a stage,” Simon said at a press conference Friday. “I don’t think I’m ready, I’ve not even finished a grand tour yet. A few more years down the line, we can talk about that, right now, mentally and physically, I’m not ready.”
Simon spoke to the press with the coolness that comes with having already raced the Tour. Adam, who raced and completed the Vuelta a España in 2014, appeared nervous when talking to a small group of journalists off to the side.
“I need that experience, especially in the first few days of the race, but it’s more off-the-bike stuff that makes the difference,” added Simon. “Even now doing the press conference or the team presentation… Last year, I was shaking and didn’t know what to say, but now it feels normal.”
What is striking and what their directors and coaches say, is that they are both determined and confident. They speak clearly about what they want and not with the air of young, second-year professionals.
“I think Froome, and all the big GC favorites, are a lot stronger than both myself and Simon,” Adam said. “We are 22-year-olds. Hopefully, in a few years we can be at that level, and fight for victory.”
“Throughout this year, I’ve had the legs to stay with these guys on some of the hilly days and harder days,” added Simon. “I feel a bit more confident being at the front with those guys and not overawed, but at the grand tour level, it’s still a different kettle of fish.”
Orica manager Matt White said he believes the young British twins could one day have overall victory hopes, but at just 22 years of age, they are not yet ready for that responsibility.
“The biggest thing for us is to leave an impact on the race, that would be our number one goal,” White said. “One stage win would be pleasing, multiple stage wins even more so. As far as GC it’s not a goal, and never has been a goal. It would be pretty unprofessional of us to put pressure on the Yates boys, who we see as GC talents, in their first Tour de France that they’re hoping to finish. They’ve shown throughout the year, and since joining the team, that they’re very capable of achieving some great results against the best guys in the world, but that’s for stage victories, not GC.”
Though they are not the first twins to compete in the Tour de France — most recently, Peter and Martin Velits rode together in 2012 — they could be the most powerful pair coming through. They both have a strong finishing sprint, they both climb well, and they both are working to improve their time trialling. To their advantage in the Tour, they have each other – and Simon’s music.
“We can draw on rooming together? Yes, it feels more like home,” Simon said. “We share a flat in Girona, so it’s almost the same. Every day, I wake up and go for breakfast and I see his face. It feels a bit more at home, as much as home as you can have at the Tour.”
“He always plays his music really loud which pisses me off. House music… full gas,” Adam added. “I like the music, but not at 11 or 12 at night!”
“I just don’t like the silence,” continued Simon. “This small issue keeps coming up. He’s getting a bit annoyed with me.”
For those trying to tell them apart, Adam sports a scruffy beard, wears black socks and green sunglasses, and will wear number 108. Simon wears white rim sunglasses with 109 on his back and bike.
The rest, including what their future holds in the world’s biggest bike race, is a story that remains to be told.