Adam Yates loving life after hitting new heights in first season at UAE Team Emirates

British cyclists talks to The National after helping the team top the UCI World Tour rankings

Adam Yates won the opening stage of the Tour de France this year and wore the yellow jersey for the first four stages. EPA
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Adam Yates is loving life right now. The British cyclist has just completed the most successful season of his career, claimed his maiden Grand Tour podium, and played a key role in UAE Team Emirates ending the year top of the UCI World Tour team rankings for the very first time – in his debut year with the team, no less.

To top it all off, just last week, he married his long-term partner Lisa at a ceremony in Granada.

After getting hitched, Yates was in Abu Dhabi with the rest of his UAE Team Emirates colleagues to celebrate the team's success, before the collective focus turns to the ruthless rigours of the 2024 season.

The downtime has been thoroughly well-earned after a year in which Yates claimed five victories and wore the Tour de France's yellow jersey for four stages en route to a heroic third-place finish.

“I maybe struggled the last couple of years to find that level of consistency, and I managed to be really consistent throughout the year; I’ve definitely gone up a level,” Yates told The National.

That step up in level was evident from the get-go. Yates, who joined UAE Team Emirates after one season at Ineos-Grenadiers, wasted little time impressing his new team, securing third place at the UAE Tour and opening his account in UAE colours by winning the seventh and final stage.

Two races later, Yates climbed two places higher on the podium for one of the biggest victories of his career at the Tour de Romandie, before sending out a clear signal of intent ahead of the Tour de France with a runner-up at Criterium du Dauphine – one of the Tour's leading build-up races.

So to the Tour de France where Yates stepped into a co-leader role as two-time champion teammate Tadej Pogacar raced against time to recover from a broken wrist. It was a responsibility he took literally, famously beating his twin brother Simon on a riveting opening stage.

“I was just glad we could do something like that on the world stage,” Yates said. “It’s not often you can win a stage of the Tour de France, less often you can win Stage 1 of the Tour de France, and even less often you can do it with your twin brother in second place, so it was fantastic.”

It marked the start of a memorable tour for Yates, who three weeks later – and seven years after placing fourth and winning the white jersey for leading young rider – finished on a Grand Tour podium for the first time in his career.

He was joined on the top steps by Pogacar, and even though UAE Team Emirates were unable to dethrone Jonas Vingegaard, having two riders in the top three was an impressive achievement.

“At the Tour, we had a really nice group; everyone knew their role,” Yates said. “I know [CEO] Mauro [Gianetti] said I was co-leader, but I knew my job and that was to be the last man in the mountains for Tadej.

“Then when the opportunities arose, like that first stage, I could take it, so it worked out well. There was only one person better than us, even with Tadej’s injury. Hopefully next year, no bad luck and we can go one step further.”

From the Tour de France, Yates finished the season strongly with another third place at the Vuelta a Burgos and a victory at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal. It all suggests a cyclist at the peak of his powers.

Yates, who turned 31 in August, believes that could be the case and points to his settled family life, as much as his prowess on the bike, for his career-best form.

“It’s hard to say. Now, all the youngsters come straight up; Tadej is a good example – he’s come straight up and started winning straight away. Whereas I feel I’ve had a more traditional progression,” Yates said. “It was only a couple of years ago when your peak was expected between 27 and 32 years old, especially with Grand Tours.

“I’ve got my life figured out, I’m happy, working hard and trying to be my best self. It worked this year, you never know what might happen next year.”

If it's more of the same next season, then it will represent another successful year, although Yates is not planning to stand still.

“I just want to improve again,” he said. “I think I’ve reached the best level of my career so far and with a little refinement, hopefully I can take another step.”

Updated: October 26, 2023, 10:55 AM