Sir Bradley Wiggins says that Simon Yates, crowned winner of the Vuelta in Madrid yesterday evening, may not have won the Spanish Grand Tour had he signed for Team Sky.
The British WorldTour team were keen on signing Yates, now 26, when he turned professional in 2014 – but not his twin brother, Adam.
Instead, the pair joined Orica-GreenEdge, now named Mitchelton-Scott, where both signed two-year contract extensions earlier this season which will keep them there until 2020.
Speaking on his Eurosport vodcast The Bradley Wiggins Show, Wiggins said: "Had he gone to Sky … I don’t think he would’ve won the Vuelta.
“It was a sliding doors moment – whether his career would’ve gone this path.
"By nature of the fact that Sky wouldn’t take Adam on as well – they come as one package – he’s found a great team and won a Grand Tour at 26."
Besides not wanting to be separated from his brother, Yates believed he would have more opportunities at Orica-GreenEdge to challenge for the overall at Grand Tours and at an earlier age.
His first chance to do just that came at the 2016 Vuelta, where he finished sixth overall.
He entered the race after missing that year’s Tour de France due to his four-month suspension for an anti-doping rule violation that the UCI accepted was due to a mistake by the team doctor.
By that time he had already raced the Tour twice, in 2014 and 2015, when the team was led by Simon Gerrans and not focused on the overall.
On his return to the race last year, however, Yates was team leader and finished seventh overall and won the best young rider classification – as his brother had 12 months earlier.
In May this year, he spent a fortnight in the lead of the Giro d’Italia until he lost it to Team Sky’s Chris Froome on Stage 19, eventually finishing 21st overall.
However, Wiggins believes that Yates’s experience in Italy helped prepare him for his successful assault on the Vuelta, where he curbed his attacking instincts to focus on defending his lead.
"That was the huge learning curve for him," Wiggins said. "In some ways that was the best thing that ever happened to him.”
“He’s learnt from it and now he’s won La Vuelta and, at 26, he’s got chances to win more Giros, more [Grand] Tours down the line.”
Wiggins himself experienced huge disappointment at the Tour de France in the first two editions he rode for Team Sky following his breakthrough performance with Garmin in 2009, finishing 23rd the following year then crashing out during the first week in 2011.
"There’s only one way to learn and that’s by mass failures like that which must have been hugely disappointing for him," he added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.