Joel Yates has been part of the Gateway set up for 2 years now since joining them in 2018, photo Mike Maney

It’s been a big week for Joel Yates as he gets ready to bid farewell to his international campaign.  Currently almost exactly in the middle between two continents, Yates is taking well to the Vuelta a Guatemala.  We caught up to him to chat more.

Some people wind down into the rest that is season’s end.  Others are like Joel Yates.  The Kiwi took his first UCI win in stage 2 of the race with a brilliant solo effort and then in stage 5’s individual time trial he finished fourth; 43 seconds behind Manuel Rodas.  With five stages to go there’s a sense we may not have seen the last of Yates impacting this 10-day, 1193km race.  

Riding for the Gateway Development Team and coming away with his first ever UCI victory in stage 2 was massive for Yates, but also coming away with the win in the manner that he did made the achievement even more significant.  “It’s a huge result for me, it’s not easy to win a UCI race let alone the way I managed to snag one!  So yeah to say I’m happy with how stage 2 went would be an understatement,” Joel told us.

Going into the stage it wasn’t a day that was specifically earmarked as a potential opportunity for Joel.  The stage also possessed a few interesting characteristics that made it sound a little like riding through a soccer stadium at local derby time.  “The stage started in Puerto Barrios with 6 circuits of a pretty undulating course riddled with speed bumps, pot holes, and crazy supporters lighting fire crackers on every corner,” Joel explained.  “The circuits took us more or less halfway through the stage before we continued south on rolling roads before a technical final 3 kilometres.”

“If I am honest I didn’t look at this stage specifically for individual success, we were planning on making the final 30km hard as a team to set up Bryan Gomez. But looking back on paper if I were given the go ahead, it would’ve been a profile I’d felt confident with.”

Yates’ attack for victory came with 20km still to cover and all of the final technical section, but that only tells part of the story.  Yates’ moves could so easily have gone the other way, as he found himself dragging others along for the ride before finding himself dropping them a few kilometres later.  

“With somewhere between 25 and 20 kilometres to go there were two riders still up the road, one with a 3 minute gap and another with a 1 minute gap. My road captain just told me it was time to go so I went with one other rider on the wheel, but he was under orders not to pull so I had to the catch the rider 1 minute ahead alone again to receive no contribution from him either,” Joel said. 

“Fortunately I was able to leave them behind and catch the last remaining rider with 10km to go and do the same with him.  From there it was just a case of keeping the head down and going as fast as possible; and yeah, I guess it was just my day.”

25 seconds after Yates crossed the finish line in Morales, Julio Padilla led the main field home for the bunch sprint with his teammates ready to share in the success.  “The cool thing about Gateway Devo Cycling is it’s very much a family environment, as soon as I saw my teammates after the finish line they were just as happy if not more than I was that I’d won for them.  And I know without him being here Chris Creed the team’s owner would’ve been even more animated than the boys were, I’m just stoked to repay him for all his support he and the management gives to all us riders,” Joel said.

Joel currently sits 65th overall after finishing 4th in the individual time trial to San Sebastián.  The 21 year old is 22.39mins behind overall leader Manuel Rodas.  It’s a time gap that opens the door to potential freedom in a breakaway so keep your eyes open over the next five days as Joel continues his journey through Guatemala.

Photo: Mike Maney

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