Simon Yates is preaching patience as he prepares to launch another tilt at pink in the Giro d’Italia. The 29-year-old Lancastrian is once again among the favorites to win the first Grand Tour of the year ahead of Friday’s opening stage in Hungary.
This is the fifth consecutive season the Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider has made the Giro his primary target, prioritizing it over the Tour de France, and it might just be his best chance to win it.
“There are many things that keep bringing me back,” Yates said. “It’s just a race I enjoy racing. We have a lot of Italian staff on the team, our service course is [in Varese], and I really enjoy the atmosphere in the team when we all come together and try to win the Giro. I think it’s a race that suits me well, it’s a very difficult race with lots of climbing. ”
For a few years, it has seemed like Yates’s focus on the Giro has been about trying to recapture the magic of 2018, when he won three stages in the opening two weeks and spent 13 days in the leaders’ pink jersey before breaking on the same day Chris Froome launched his race-winning stage 19 attack.
Yates, who went on to win the 2018 Vuelta a España after that disappointment, rode to eighth in the 2019 Giro before being forced to abandon the race due to Covid-19 in 2020, but last year he recovered from a slow start to take a stage 19 victory and finish third overall.
“I think I’ve learned patience,” he said. “You need to be quite calm. The race is three weeks. You can always go back to 2018 where we really went after it in the first and second weeks and then fell apart in the third.
“But even last year I had some problems with my hamstrings in the first week but still came good towards the end, managed a stage and arrived on the podium. You’ve got to have an eye on the big picture, be patient and wait for the race to come to you. ”
With reigning champion Egan Bernal out injured, 2019 winner Richard Carapaz is the favorite at the head of a strong Ineos Grenadiers team, but the bookmakers have Yates ahead of João Almeida and Mikel Landa as the man most likely to challenge the Ecuadorian.
“I’ll let you guys make that decision,” Yates said. “I think the riders are just anxious to start. There are others who will be competitive. Take it back to last year. I’d won the Tour of the Alps [coming into the Giro] and I kept reading I was a massive favorite. Romain Bardet won the Tour of the Alps this year and I’ve heard nothing about him so I think there’s a few guys flying under the radar. ”
With more than 50,000m of climbing and just 26.6km of time trialling in the entire three weeks, this Giro looks like one for the mountain goats who struggle against the clock. That is a category which has often included Yates, though he has improved on his time-trial bike markedly, as shown by his fifth place on stage four of Paris-Nice in March. A couple of weeks after that, Yates suffered an illness that forced him to withdraw from the Vuelta a Catalunya.
His only race since then was last weekend’s Vuelta Asturias, where he took impressive wins on stages one and three, but lost more than 10 minutes on stage two. “I feel good,” he insisted. “I won two good stages and the sensations are good. The second day was my first exposure to some really hot conditions and in the past I’ve had some difficulties with my first exposure of the year. But I’m not worried. We’ll see once the race starts. ”