Sean Yates: The Slam-DUNC Interview!
I always like talking to the top athletes from my youth early 20’s – like Sean Yates. He was for every Brit of my generation, a star. Brits weren’t and aren’t that reknowned for their pro-cycling capabilities, so Sean Yates in those years shone out. It was in the years of the English-speakers, Greg LeMond (the reason I started biking!) the Irishmen, Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche… oh Stephen Roche, he was good wasn’t he? It was the years of the TT development, LeMond with those tri-bars and Sean Yates ploughing out the fastest TDF stage at a TT in 1988.
I met up with Sean at the CSC team presentation in January but we didn’t have time to talk. We then spoke on the phone to arrange this interview between his work commitments with CSC and his training.
The first thing I noticed about Sean is how down to earth he is. What started as an interview, turned into a chat as he answered my questions then asked his own. The more I asked the more he asked! I’ll give you the interview but behind these answers were many questions of his own and a chat about our private lives… which will remain private.
Dunc: Sean, Thanks for your time. What’s all that noise?
SY: I’m at the airport, don’t worry you’re not disturbing anything.
Dunc: I’ll start with a few questions about CSC. This team is getting forever stronger and more Italian. Riis has brought in a new type of management structure into cycling?
SY: Well, maybe for cycling it’s new, but for business it’s not. It’s run as a business that wants to be successful. It’s organized and everybody has a job to do. We are all in the same boat with the same objectives… results. Plus Riis has a gentle but firm hold on everything. In fact, some of our sponsors have already confirmed their support until 2006.
Dunc: You were a great TT man, Riis was no slouch either. Basso has his problems at TT. Are you helping him with his TT and if so, what have you done?
SY: It isn’t just his TT we have changed. It is his general position on the bike. He rode a bike very upright, like a shopping bike!! This consumes so much over a period of time. A race like the TDF is all about recovery day by day, so if you consume more day by day your recovery is longer. His bike is longer now, his TT bike he got at the beginning of February so he’ll have time to try it out. I think all this will give him that little bit extra needed in the mountains and enough to protect himself in the TT’s.
Dunc: A bit about you. How is your typical day? Andrea Peron tells me you are still out on the bike every day. True?
SY: Well not everyday. It depends where we are. A typical day doesn’t exist as we are always in a different place with different demands. On our training camp I generally get out early in the morning, 7-7.30 or so. In the winter months it’s sometimes still dark. Anyway, I do a couple of hours then back to the hotel, shower, breakfast then out in the car with the team by 10 o’clock. In the summer months I can get up earlier as there is more daylight. If I can’t get out then I spin on the rollers. [I first spoke to Sean in a middle of a rollers session!! – Dunc]
Dunc: What sort of mileage do you do on the bike in a year?
SY: Oh I don’t know. Rough guess… 10,000km.
Dunc: I notice you answer the phone when you are training?
SY: Yes… sometimes I have to, Why ?
Dunc: I never do. One, as I’m normally in a swimming pool! and two, I need that time for myself, I don’t even talk to people when I gym train.
SY: I heard that you swam the English Channel. This true?
Dunc: Yeah. On the 11th September 2001. Not a day I or the rest of the world will forget.
SY: You’re a nutter!! What made you do that? How does it work, I mean how do you go about organizing it? You have a support boat and team don’t you? Then how do you decide what day to do it on? It’s cold isn’t it… shit….you’re mad!
[I’ll save you the long details of my Channel Swim but we spoke at real length about it. – Dunc.]
Dunc: You always gave me the impression, when I saw you on TV of being big, you seem thinner in the face now. Are you thinner now than when you were a pro?
SY: No, I’m the same, 75-76 kg. When I finished the TDF I was normally around 72kg but I’ve kept the same weight.
Dunc: Not so long ago I was at Moser’s 20th Anniversary of his Hour record he set in Mexico. You being a TT boy, were you ever attempted to have a go?
SY : No. It never crossed my mind. It’s something that has to be planned into the year. Boardman did it at the end of his career as did Indurain. I didn’t have enough track experience so it never came into my plans but I suppose thinking about it now I could have got close!
Dunc: What has been lost in the Hour record. Why isn’t something that appeals to today’s cyclists?
SY: Today’s top cyclist’s earn big money, so there is less incentive. Armstrong and Ullrich would be awesome at it, but I can’t see them bringing it to their plans. The TDF is important to them so unless they try it at the end of their career I can’t see them having the courage to do it.
Dunc: What other sports do you do and like?
SY: I was a bit of a sailor. I love sailing. I did it from when I was a kid. I like skiing… I like all sports and follow it all (a classic Brit) boxing, athletics, swimming, golf. tennis… you name it, I watch it! I like Soccer. I took my 7 year old son to Wembley to watch England play before they bulldozed it.
Dunc: What soccer team do you support?
SY: Arsenal, You?
Dunc: Whooops… Tottenham Hotspurs!! Neighbouring Rivals! Where do you live Sean?
Dunc: I wrote an article about how in different places cyclist’s acknowledge one another or not. I was cycling from Santiago in Spain back to Milan and in some places cyclists say hello, in other not. What do you do when you are out on the bike?
SY: Oh, a little wave and a nod of the head I always give. You cycled from Santiago to Milan, I told you – you are a nutter, but I must have been a great trip. Did you do the Pilgrim route out of Santiago?
Dunc: Not the central one, I did the coastal pilgrim route reversed. I would like to do the central one starting from the Pyrennes in France to Santiago one day.
SY: Alan Pipier walked it I think. Took him 30 days or something.
Dunc: Can you touch your toes without bending your knees?
SY: Yes. I didn’t do a lot of stretching. I was of the old training regime! I was massaged but I’ve always had reasonable flexibility. Can you?
Dunc: Oh yes. I have to do it. Being big, the only way of saving my body from all the training and cramps is stretching! Where have you kept your Yellow Jersey?
SY: In the Loft at home. I’ve a trunk full of all my cycling stuff from those years.
Dunc: I normally challenge the person that I interview. Most chicken out or are never arranged (Mr Ballerini… I’m still waiting!!!) you can choose from the following:
3. 1km bike race using 8 year olds kids bikes.
5. Downhill skiing.
6. 1 min cracker eating without drinking water.
SY: mmmmm, Squash is out, Andrea told me about you, I’ll go for Golf. I use to play a bit but I would like to play again.
Dunc, Ok, we’ll play a Stapleford tournament.
SY: Ok I won’t chicken out.
Ciao for Now
Photo courtesy of Team CSC.