Adam Yates finished second overall just over a minute behind overall race winner Ruben Fernandez of Spain in a tough seven-stage-and-a-prologue Tour de l’Avenir, arguably the most prestigious stage race in the Under-23 Coupe de Nations calendar.
It was the best overall performance by a British rider in the race since 1982, when Robert Millar, riding for the Peugeot pro team, finished second overall behind winner Greg LeMond.
The race was effectively won on the first mountain top finish in St Francois Longchamp on stage four when 22-year old Fernandez – who rides with Pro Continental Spanish team Caja Rural – soloed to a 1-50 stage win. The win gave him the lead overall from Austrian Patrick Konrad as well as a lead of 1-30 over the other fancied riders and he and his team defended it diligently for the remainder of the race.
Backing up French-domiciled Adam Yates was his brother Simon, the reigning British Under-23 road race and World points champion who won back-to-back stages in the race, finally finishing a creditable 10th overall.
On stage five which finished in Morzine in the French Alps, Simon Yates took the stage, profiting from a great lead-out by brother Adam in the final kilometre, with Adam still managing to finish second. Simon won again the following day, while on the final stage seven – a mountain top finish at Plateau des Glières – Adam was third and Simon 10th behind French talent Julian Alaphilippe who has signed a pro contract with Omega Pharma for 2014.
British team manager Keith Lambert declared himself delighted with the performance of the whole team which, in addition to the Yates brothers, comprised under-23 time trial champion Sam Harrison, Joe Perrett, Owain Doull and Al Slater. Both Doull and Harrison crashed on the first road stage and finally climbed off on the final stage.
“I think this is the best performance by a British rider in this race since Robert Millar with Peugeot back in the early 1980s,” said Lambert later, “the last couple of stages were savage and you needed to be a decent climber to get results there.
“The rest of lads did what they could on the opening stages for them, but they’re not climbers so they (the Yates brothers) were pretty much on their own in the mountains. They’ve really put themselves in the shop window with those results.”
Apart from Simon Yates, the other big winner was 19-year-old Australian Caleb Ewan who took two bunch gallops while the other stages were won by Dane Michael Valgren Andersen and Alaphilippe, who also won the points jersey.
Final overall general classification
1. Ruben Fernandez (Spain)
2. Adam Yates (GB) at 0-55
3. Patrick Konrad (Austria)
4. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan)
5. Oskar Svendsen (Norway)
6. Davide Formolo (Italy)
7. Heiner Parra (Colombia)
8. Gavin Mannion (USA)
9. Toms Skujins (Lithuania)
10. Simon Yates (GB) at 3-44
Stage wins: Alexis Gougeard (prologue), Caleb Ewan (stages one and two), Michael Valgren Andersen (stage three), Ruben Fernandez (Spain), Simon Yates (stages five and six), Julian Alaphilippe (stage seven)