Sean Yates: How I got the nickname 'Animal'

Every pro needs a nickname; it was inevitable that our Lifetime Achievement award winner Sean Yates would end up with a good one

lifetime achievement
(Image credit: Future / David Aliaga)

Cycling Weekly's new Lifetime Achievement Award winner Sean Yates spoke at length to James Shrubsall about his career, from his time as an amateur to winning the Tour de France as a directeur sportif with Team Sky, and more. 

Part two: how I got my nickname 'Animal'

Every pro rider worth their salt must have a nickname. And with his love of making himself – and others – hurt on the bike, it was only going to be a matter of time before Sean Yates got one of his own. In the end it was one of his team-mates at Peugeot who obliged, but not initially for his endeavours at the front of the peloton.

Yates takes up the story.

"Francis Castaing, he was a rider at Peugeot, a sprinter, he used to call me 'Animal' because I never felt the cold. I pretty much never wore gloves, never wore arm-warmers and definitely not leggings.

A passion for sailing as a youngster probably helped, he reckoned.

"Coming from England, sailing in the winter, you know, when the water was flying onto the boat and would literally freeze… obviously you wore a wetsuit most of the time but it was much colder than it was in a cycling event because you're not generating as much heat.

"I also used to do outward bound a bit in Scotland, climbing in the snow and this, that and the other. I really didn't feel the cold. I used to ride a lot in the winter, minus three, or four or five, five hours without gloves.

"I remember in the evenings I used to get these pains in my hands. But I'd go riding, the bidons would be frozen, but I didn't feel the cold. And that's why they called me the Animal. I guess I've got a high pain threshold, or whatever you want to call it."

Of course, having a nickname like the Animal doesn't come for free. There's a certain pressure that comes with that. And as Yates's team mates found out in the team time trial, it didn't come for free for them either.

"Obviously I did enjoy that because it just made me go. 'Okay, I've got this reputation, I need to uphold it'. In the team time trial event – probably the event I love the most, everyone would be like 'Sean you're gonna kill us, Sean you're gonna kill us'. They didn't realise that the more they said that the more I thought, 'Well, shit, I need to kill 'em! It just motivated me further to ride harder. And I did kill them on multiple occasions."

* See this week's Cycling Weekly for details of all our Annual Awards winners.

Tomorrow: part three: how I dropped the weight and won a Tour time trial

See also: part one: overtraining nearly killed my career as I was getting started

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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields. 


Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.


A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness), but he still rides regularly, both on the road and on the gravelly stuff.