British Tour de France hopeful Simon Yates is familiar with some of the surroundings he will face this weekend, but admits once he gets into the hussle and bustle of the urban areas, he’s going in blind.
Yates trains around the peaks at High Bradfield and Oughtibridge but that’s as close as he has got to riding in Sheffield so there will be no one in his Orica GreenEdge team will be coming to him for local knowledge.
“I know some of the climbs in the middle part of the second stage,” he said. “They’re my local training roads. But once we get into the cities I don’t really know.”
Yates, who was a late call up for Le Tour, got the opportunity in unfortunate circumstances, with Orica revealing that Daryl Impey, the South African who wore the yellow jersey for two stages in last year’s Tour, had been stood down following a positive test for Probecenid.
But Yates’ inclusion is a welcome boost to British numbers in this year’s race with Sir Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, Peter Kennaugh and Alex Dowsett on a lengthy list of absentees.
While Geraint Thomas will focus on helping Chris Froome defend yellow, and Mark Cavendish will seek stage wins starting with the opener on Saturday, Yates knows his own role will have a much lower profile but he is more than happy to defer to his team-mates.
“I’m just here to help Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews,” he said. “We’re targeting the medium mountain days where a sprinter who can climb will get to the finish and hopefully I can play a big part.”
Asked if he harboured his own ambitions, he added: “I don’t think so. The guys here are the best in the business so I’ll leave it to them. They’re experienced. Simon won a stage in the Tour last year, and ‘Bling’ (Matthews) just came from the Giro (d’Italia).”
The 21-year-old rode last week’s British road race championship, finishing third, without even a sneaking suspicion he might be in the frame for Orica GreenEdge’s Tour squad.
But when his phone rang on Sunday night, Yates’ first season as a professional rider took a huge twist.
“I thought they were going to be calling about the Tour of Poland, which is a month away,” Yates said. “It’s a shock. From the start of the year I was not even a reserve for the Tour de France so to come to the biggest race we do all year, and specially with it coming to England, it’s a big opportunity.”