When news happens, text BONEWS and your photos to 80360 or phone 01204 537274
CYCLING: Yates on top of the world
SIMON Yates raced into the reckoning for the Rio Olympics with his sensational gold medal-winning performance at the World Track Cycling Championships in Belarus.
The 20-year-old Bury Clarion rider showed maturity beyond his years to win the points race in Minsk and take the treasured rainbow jersey at his first attempt.
It was a performance that stunned his rivals and made a massive contribution to the Great Britain team’s success in Minsk, where they topped the medal table with five golds.
Little was expected of the British Cycling academy starlet, medal-wise, when he was named in the British team, with many observers suggesting he was going along for the experience of top-flight international competition.
But he rode a clever race, starting slowly before timing his points accumulation in the 160-lap (40km) event to perfection, scoring in four of the last five of 16 sprints and finishing third in the final sprint to pip his nearest rival, Spain’s Eloy Teruel, by a single point.
He could not have timed it better with the points race – dropped from the Olympic cycling programme for London 2012 but tipped to be reinstated for the 2016 Games. He could also be in contention for the madison in which he has an impressive pedigree – he won the junior workld title in 2010 – and in which he finished 11th in partnership with Owain Doull on Sunday.
Simon, whose twin brother Adam is also forging a career in cycling and is currently attached to France’s top semi-professional road race team CC Etupes, is somewhat less famous than the likes of the legendary Sir Chris Hoy or Bolton’s three-time Olympic gold medallist Jason Kenny.
But he is on track to become a regular in the much-lauded GB team after progressing through the Olympic development programme before being cherry-picked for the endurance academy programme. His next target is to make the podium programme on which British Cycling prepares its elite riders for major championships.
And the former Derby High and Bury College student makes no bones about where he has set his sights.
“I’m looking towards Rio,” he said. “Hopefully, that’s where we are all heading.”
Those Olympic ambitions were undepinned by GB head coach Shane Sutton when he hailed the team’s achievements in Minsk.
“Medals build momentum. We need to keep this going,” Sutton said.
“I think this team is heading towards greatness in four years’ time.
“You can virtually name your team for Rio now. They’re joined already as a team, they’re a very young squad, and they all get on, they’re all on the same page. It’s quite exciting.” Of his race tactics that started cautiously and ended with an immense display of stamina and power, Yates said: “It fell perfectly to how I wanted to ride it.
“It was a bit touch and go in the last few laps, luckily I had the gas in the end, “It’s a long way so I tried to conserve my energy at the start. In those earlier sprints I probably wouldn’t have been fast enough to win them anyway.
“Once everyone else started getting tired, the race came to me.
“With about 10 laps to go I realised I was only a point behind and that spurred me on.”
Yates’s coach Chris Newton, who won the world points race title in 2002, praised the performance of his young charge.
“He took care of himself,” Newton said. “With 15km to go in a points race with people on their knees, you really have to dig yourself out, and he did.”
l Simon Yates is not the first Bury cyclist to strike gold at the world track championships The legendary Reg Harris, who born and raised in Birtle, won five world sprint titles – one as an amateur and four as a professional – when he dominated the sport in the 1940s and 1950s. He also won two silver medals at the London Olympics in 1948.
Harris died in 1992 at the age of 72 and there is a memorial to his achievements at British Cycling’s home base at Manchester Velodrome.