Cycling fans must know the words to God Save the Queen by heart by now. For the past five Grand Tours in a row, the British national anthem has blared out over the final podium ceremony. On Sunday evening it played for Simon Yates on Madrid’s Plaza de Cibeles, as the 26-year-old was officially crowned the winner of the 2018 Vuelta a España.
“I’m not very good with speeches, and I don’t know any Spanish.”
Yates was invited up onto the podium three times before the anthem played – first as winner of the combined classification, then as the winner of the overall classification, then as part of the final podium.
Each time he raised both arms straight in the air above his head. There was a broad, childlike smile across his face but also a glint in his wide eyes, which seemed to dart from side to side. No tears, but certainly a sense of bewilderment.
“I want to thank my team, they’ve had a lot of belief in me from the very beginning. I really need to thank them for believing in me,” he continued.
“I’d also like to thank my family. We’ve had some tough times in the past, but of course, they always stick by me. Also my girlfriend, and of course my friends.”
A special vote of thanks went to Gerry Ryan, the Australian businessman who has financed the Mitchelton-Scott team since its very beginning in 2012.
It is understood that Yates turned down offers from Team Sky and other teams when deciding where to start his professional career, and that he and his brother themselves identified the Australian team as the place where their careers had the best chance of flourishing. How wise that decision now seems.
“A really big thank you to Gerry Ryan,” Yates said. “He’s the main reason our teams exists and without him, we would not be here today. Just a really big thank you to the Ryan family.”
Aware of his initial promise, and perhaps aware that the beer supply at the team bus had been steadily draining for a good hour, Yates signed off, now a Grand Tour champion.