Brothers in arms across Bilbao but radio question belies Adam’s status as UAE’s true leader

Asking permission from Pogačar gives clarity to co-leadership claims.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 01.07.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Wout van Aert was already tired of UAE Team Emirates’ mind games before the start of the Tour de France, their protestations that Adam Yates was the supposed co-leader of Tadej Pogačar, Vingegaard’s true main rival. After just one stage, those doubts that the co-leadership claims were a ruse were proven to be well-founded.

Despite Yates taking the opening stage and the race lead, beating his brother Simon after the pair slipped away from the group of main contenders, Adam then easing away from Simon on the incline to the finish in Bilbao, that the Brit asked on the radio for permission to work with Simon shows the true pecking order at UAE Team Emirates.

“I didn’t know if I should work with him,” said Adam at the finish. “So I asked on the radio and they said ‘Yeah, go for it.’” In brief comments immediately post-stage, brother Simon noted that even on the road, Adam looked for Pogačar’s go-ahead to attack. “He rolled to the front and gave Pogačar the nod, as in, like ‘Can I go? What’s the situation?'” said Simon Yates of the crucial moment.

“This is the decision of Tadej,” UAE Team Emirates’ manager Matxin Joxean Fernandez confirmed to Escape Collective after celebrating with each and every member of his team staff. “Tadej was perfectly in control so Adam could try.”

In his winner’s press conference, Adam Yates explained that when he first went away with his brother he couldn’t work to further their progress up the road: “When we got away together I said ‘I can’t work, I can’t work.’ He’s professional, I’m professional. That’s professional bike riding.”

But then the call came down the chain of command that despite his supposed status as co-leader, he was allowed to go for victory himself.

“At 4-5km to go, Tadej gave me the call to say that I could start to work because behind there was a bit of confusion,” Adam explained. “Then we went full gas to the finish. Obviously on the final climb I managed to have a bit more energy because he spent some on the descent and that’s why I’m here in yellow.”

“It’s his brother but we know Adam is faster than Simon, we were happy with the super condition and capacity of Adam in the final,” Matxin continued of the team’s confidence that the freedom granted to Yates would be worth it.

Pogačar seemed extremely happy to see his teammate take the stage and yellow. Photo © Cor Vos

For Jayco-AlUla, they were hoping it was a more evenly matched affair.

“I’m a glass half-full kind of person so I was certainly hoping it was Simon. They’re twins so their characteristics and numbers are very similar,” Jayco-AlUla sports director Matt White offered up after the finish. “So it wouldn’t have been a surprise whoever won really. It’s those sorts of arrivals [where it’s decided by] who’s saved a little bit more, who’s done a little bit less. I noticed on the climb Adam was really pushing the pace and then got distanced, Simon came across to the group. I didn’t see how they slipped away, I think it was probably just people looking at each other and one went away and the other went across.

“We’ve never seen them race together,” White continued of a special duel that could only be thrown up by the Tour. “[We] deliberately kept them separate when they were [both] on our team. They don’t go head-to-head too often.”

In the huddle around White, Lionel Bernie of The Cycling Podcast then reminded the sports director of a past Tour of Turkey, where Simon crashed out with a broken collarbone. White told Adam, who responded: “Keep your eyes on the race.” Adam went on to win said race. “They’re both winners, that’s for sure,” White added.

For Simon, the brother with the more decorated palmarès, there is still joy to be taken by being beaten into second by a family member. “I’m pretty pleased for him. It’s his first Grand Tour stage [win], but I also wanted to win,” he said. “We’re quite competitive; I’ll try to get the better of him in the coming days.”

That Simon will take vengeance is also not far from his brother’s mind.

“He showed he’s in great shape and I’m sure he’s going to be a pain in the ass for the next three weeks,” warned Adam.

Twelve seconds after the twins crossed the line, Tadej Pogačar arrived, arms aloft as if he’d won yet another Tour stage, but there was no Jasper Disaster moment here. Pogačar was simply elated for his teammate.

“I think Tadej is more happy with the win of his teammate than himself. I’m sure; I know Tadej,” Matxin explained of the celebration.

Even if Adam himself seemed to admit post-race that he’s a half-step below Pogačar in the hierarchy, when pressed on the co-leader issue, Matxin held firm: “He is the yellow jersey, Adam Yates. We have respect for the yellow jersey.”

A repeat of Geraint Thomas’ unexpected 2018 victory where he slipped into yellow and didn’t let go? Or an important confidence boost for UAE Team Emirates and a clearly buoyant Tadej Pogačar? Either way, it looks like we may once again have a two-horse race between the two super teams that have bolted from the stable before the others have even got off their buses.

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