Cycling: Yates the gardener with a director's eye

Last sunday the former British Tour de France leader Sean Yates spent seven hours reeling out instructions to bike riders in a labyrinth of farm lane cobbles in northern France. Then, on Wednesday, he had an appointment to chop down a tree in Tonbridge.

Yates has oscillated between these two radically different existences for almost eight years, after retiring from a distinguished career with big-name squads like Peugeot and Motorola in 1996.

One day in every three in 2003, Yates is team manager with the top cycling squad, CSC, owned and run by the 1996 Tour de France winner, Bjarne Riis. He is the first Briton ever to hold such a prestigious position in the sport. On the other two, Yates works as a gardener or builder's labourer near his home town of Forest Row, Sussex.

"They're both outdoor jobs," said Yates, a mild-mannered, wiry-thin 42-year-old, by way of a more or less useful explanation. He does admit, though, that when he chats to his work-mates on the scaffolding mid-week, "they think I'm a bit nuts".

"I've got three kids and, together with cycling, gardening's the one thing I'm qualified to do," he explains. "Directing is an easier way of earning a living than building or hedge-cutting."

Still a keen amateur rider who regularly gives local time trialists a panning in 25-mile events in the UK, Yates' ventures back into sport at a professional level were not so successful.

After taking a job as director of Linda McCartney, the country's first fully Continental-based team in over a decade, he found himself doing everything from signing bike riders to booking flights. "It was manic," Yates says bluntly.

Then when McCartney capsized in a miasma of unpaid debts in January 2001, it was back to getting up at 7am for a job on the building site.

"Or 4am, to go out training on me bike first," he adds in his soft Sussex burr.

Twelve months on, following another, even briefer crack at directing with the chronically underfunded Iteamnova squad, Yates was en route to buy a trailer for his gardening when he received a call from Riis, asking him to join CSC.

"He'd heard about me, of course, but the fact there was a New Zealand mechanic, Craig Geater, who went on from McCartney to CSC, also helped," says Yates, who seems unfazed by his high-profile job.

A key part of his new role is what Riis calls "coaching", but Yates would call it coaxing, "trying to get the best out of the riders rather than just yelling and telling them they're soft gits. It's far less work than with McCartney."

While Yates has a group of seven riders on whom he has to write monthly and race reports, another, more dynamic role is directing the squad car in World Cup races like last weekend's Paris-Roubaix. The next time he will be feeding riders information down a race radio will be in early May, somewhere in Switzerland.

Mentally, the work is draining. "You do disconnect, that's for sure," he muses. For now, though, both his riders and his gardening clients can relax: Yates, famous for never quitting races, has no intention of disconnecting from either role.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine