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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Domestique bliss
By Matt Majendie

Sean Yates during his riding days
Yates is rated as one of the best domestiques of all time
Sean Yates is back at the Tour de France for the first time in eight years.

But for once the man known as the "animal" during his riding career is feeling uneasy.

This is Yates' first visit to cycling's centrepiece since riding for the last time in 1995.

Despite having mixed feelings watching his ex-rivals compete over the toughest terrain, he is revelling in his new role as assistant sporting director at Bjarne Riis' CSC outfit.

"Cycling's the easiest thing to do in the world, aside from the physical side," he told the BBC Sport website.

"Of course you suffer some days but you're told where to go and when - it's straightforward.

"Now it's the other way around. I seem to carry around a lot more stuff than I used to and be far more aware of what's going on. It's a bit tiring really but it's good to be back."

My tip to domestiques today is to give 110% no matter what
Sean Yates

By bringing Yates to CSC Riis has pulled off an astute move as he pushes team leader Tyler Hamilton towards a high overall finish.

In a recent poll Yates was voted one of the top-10 domestiques of all time, a crucial cog to any leader's Tour ambitions.

His selflessness knew no bounds. He rarely rode for himself, but flung himself into solely helping his team leader.

When he did go for the glory, however, he could mix it with the best, as proved by his yellow jersey in the 1994 Tour.

"I preferred being told what to do," he said. "It meant I could avoid the pressure and just get on with the job.

"On my day I knew I could beat the best but I was never going to be a great."

Dying breed

Few today can match Yates' fearlessness - he would regularly charge down ascents at 70 km/h to help team-mates close gaps with little thought for his personal safety.

The "animal" said: "My tip to domestiques today is to give 110% no matter what. That's what you're there to do. But there are not many guys willing to do that now - perhaps it's a dying breed."

To many casual observers, the role of domestique is not a particularly rewarding one.

Yates begs to differ.

He said: "I always knew that if I did my best, even if no one mentioned it at the end of the day, that was enough.

"And if I didn't give my all, I'd be out of a job. There was no point whining if someone forgot to say 'good job Sean' at the end of a stage."

He will make sure that message gets across to his CSC charges for the next fortnight.

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