Joel Yates of Gateway Harley-Davidson/Trek Development Team/Spirits of St Louis Legacy has finished third in the Thompson Bucks County Classic. The Kiwi, who is getting ready to captain Team Skoda Fruzio on the road at this year’s SBS Tour of Southland, completed the podium behind Ty Magner and Jarret Oldham.
Terrible conditions greeted the riders for the 2018 100km long Thomson Bucks County Classic but that did nothing to stop New Zealand’s Joel Yates from throwing himself into a three-man breakaway that would define the race. After going over the course the day before Yates decided that being up towards the front from the off would be the best approach. “After our course recon the day before the race it was immediately evident that being outside the top 20 wheels on this course, even in the dry, was going to cause me and the team a lot of problems. The first half of the course is all downhill with a few technical turns before heading back uphill to the start/finish line again. With the rain as strong as it was, the team plan was to stay in the front and cover dangerous moves for the first half of the race before getting aggressive and making moves in the second half.”
It was Rally Cycling who led matters early on, trying to set up national criterium champion, Ty Magner, for a shot at the breakaway; and it was Magner’s move that proved all the invitation Yates needed. “I decided I should bridge across to put the other teams under pressure, fortunately for me I was able to get across comfortably with the help of Jarret Oldham and from then on the three of us worked together perfectly and were able to stay away for 70km to the end of the race!”
The three formed a formidable partnership as behind them there appeared some reluctance to really take up an earnest chase. With 44 laps remaining the gap to the leaders sat at 20 seconds but steadily the lead stretched up to over 2 minutes on the peloton as the laps ticked away. Three riders broke clear from the peloton and went in pursuit of the leaders, with Matt McLoone of Battley Harley-Davidson/Found, Kyle Murphy of Rally Cycling and Joel Yates’ teammate Sean Gardner going in pursuit.
They were unable to seriously dent the lead of the trio up ahead though and as the laps continued to tick away the three riders continued to tap out their advantage with McLoone chasing solo and Murphy and Gardner uniting in pursuit behind.
On the final lap the three riders finally began to break apart, with Yates just starting to lose touch with the two ahead of him. The duo were just a couple of seconds ahead of him as the riders climbed one more time; Yates was able to catch them on the climb but then Oldham attacked, stretching Yates, while Magner chased close behind Oldham.
Finally Magner launched his sprint uphill and surged clear to take the win in a shade under 2.23 hours. Oldham placed second with Joel Yates crossing the line clear for third.
Afterwards Yates told us how pleased he was with the way he rode his final race of the calendar year with the team. “I’m really happy with the way I rode my last race of the season, managed to snag third place on the day and first U23,” Yates said.
“It was the sort of performance I knew I was capable of showing over here racing in the USA Pro Road Tour (PRT), unfortunately earlier in the year I had a hard time getting the form ball rolling into the races which was really frustrating for me at the time, but to be honest I’ve never been more proud of myself to come out of what was a really difficult situation and put all the pieces back together to have a successful trip to Belgium with the team and then finishing it off with a strong showing at the Thompson Bucks County Criterium.”
In 2019 Yates will target opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic ocean. “At this stage, yeah I’ll be looking to get stuck into my second PRT season in the States with the aim of getting to the U23 Nations Cup Races in Belgium prior to that. This year I opted out of racing as it just wasn’t going to work with the way I had planned things out. But after spending three weeks of August in Belgium this year, I’m hungry for a taste of what the Nations Cup races have to offer,” said Joel.
The immediate future though sees Yates heading back to New Zealand and reuniting with Team Skoda Fruzio in the run up to the Tour of Southland with a big national championship campaign also strong on the mind. “I’ll be looking to join Team Skoda Racing for the Tour Of Southland as the beginning of my preparation towards the Elite Criterium Nationals in Takapuna then onto the U23 Nationals Road Race and Time Trial. As it’s my last chance to challenge for the U23 National honours I’m putting the majority of my effort this Kiwi summer into those races,” Yates said.