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5th Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under - 2.3

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News for January 27, 2003

Sean Yates: Tending a Danish Garden

By Nisa Schebella in Adelaide

Sean Yates and Lennie Kristensen
Photo: © Tom Balks
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Sean Yates has had a rough ride in the past few years, attempting to continue a career in the world of cycling after retiring from the peloton in 1996. An impressive turn in the saddle as a part of the infamous "foreign legion" of Anglophiles in Europe through the 80's, Yates began riding with French outfit Peugeot in 1982 and then moved on to team Fagor. The multiple Tour de France, and Vuelta stage winner then transferred to the United States and spent time with 7-Eleven and Motorola. At Motorola he took a young Lance Armstrong under his wing and helped him learn how to survive in the bunch in Europe.

In his illustrious career as a pro, Yates has won stages in Paris-Nice, as well as the GP Eddy Merckx, US Pro Championships and the British nationals. When Yates hung up his cleats in 1996 he returned to England and settled back into an easier pace, although he continued racing local time trials and was a regular starter at club races. Now 42, he still looks fit and strong, and weighs the same 75 kilograms that he did when he was racing.

1998 saw Yates head up the new vegetarian British team, Linda McCartney. US Postal Service were also watching him and offered him a place on their team working alongside Johnny Weltz and old comrade Armstrong. He declined this offer and instead accepted the role of director sportif at Linda McCartney. When the team folded dramatically in early 2001, right after team leader David McKenzie won the final stage of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, Sean and his boys were left out on a limb and out of work.

From there he accepted a role to coach the British track squad and waited to join British Cycling. The appointment did not come together and Sean was once again "blown out". The saga continued when his next attempt to manage a team also fell flat after the Australian team iTeamNova, run by husband and wife David and Susan McKenzie, ran low of funds and could not afford to keep him. All this within a year and a half.

"The money ran out at iTeamNova," Yates explains. "The idea was that it was funded by subscribers, and the amount they attracted wasn't sufficient to keep the program going, the riders kept going but they weren't being paid as far as I know, and I certainly wasn't. There were insufficient funds to pay me so I had no choice, I had to go home and get a job. I've been gardening for 6 months. When you've got to work you've got to work."

Irresistible offer

Late last year a surprise phone call by CSC-Tiscali team manager, Bjarne Riis, convinced Sean to hang up his whipper snipper. Flattered by the interest, the offer to join the Division I team was readily accepted, and Sean was given his first assignment of the season in Adelaide.

Sean believes that his run of bad luck was actually not so bad. In fact it freed him up to join one of the most respected teams in Europe and the chance to work together with the well respected former Danish pro-rider Bjarne Riis. As well as that, other old mates like mechanic Craig Geater and Johnny Weltz, were part of the team. The money was also a lot better than cutting lawns!

"It's good to be back on the road with a decent team and I'm really enjoying things. There's only three Danish guys in the team [at JCTDU], and a mix of guys from elsewhere. The mentality is easy going and we always have a good laugh, but when work needs to be done we get down to it. It is certainly a bit relaxed but it is a good atmosphere".

Working with old team mate Johnny Weltz is also a bonus for Yates. They have been friends since the 80's when they were team mates at Fagor. Weltz was also assistant director sportif at Motorola with Yates in his last year with the team and would have worked under him if he had gone to join the Posties.

"This year we'll do a double program, Johnny Weltz and myself. I'll handle the Northern Classics and because Johnny lives in Spain, he has lots of contacts there, so he'll handle the Tour program. After this the boys split. Julian Dean goes to Qatar and I start off with the Tour of Mediterranean in the south of France and the other guys in Mallorca, so the split program starts".

Sean should not really have to worry about job security with CSC being such a superb outfit, but CSC has not yet committed to continuing its sponsorship through 2004. "Their sponsorship ends at the end of the year so obviously the team will want to continue, whether it's under the name of CSC or not, we don't know. We would obviously like them to stay with the team."

First points on the board

After the finish of this year's Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, it's clear that the CSC team have done well in its first 2003 outing. Lennie Kristensen finished second on GC, although he was equal on time with winner Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r). He also finished second in the King of the Mountain classification, on equal points with Telekom's Cadel Evans. In the sprints classification, Andrea Tafi emerged as the clear winner.

"The plan for the Tour Down Under was to get a good position. We had Lennie in a good spot on the KOM, he was our pre-race favourite. It's not the be all and end all, but it's good for the morale that we worked together as a team."

It looks like Yates' plan unfolded better than he could have expected. Taking a good result back to Riis is his job, and he is determined to deliver the goods that Riis believes he is capable of. With his confidence growing, 2003 augers well for Yates. Maybe in a few years he may write a book - The Yates Garden Guide - How to make your cyclists bloom and grow.

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