Simon Yates was tearful when the Giro d’Italia fell from his grasp in the 11th hour of an otherwise spectacular race debut last year but is now ready to employ lessons learned in a more concerted fight for the Maglia Rosa.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
1 May 2019 - 4:20 PM 

Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) had led the race for two weeks before he cracked on Stage 19 under the pressure of stage and eventual title winner Chris Froome (Sky), and lost nearly 40 minutes, bombing from first to 18th overall and out of title contention. He ultimately placed 21st behind Froome on the general classification.

“I think a lot of it was just tactics at that point. We raced very aggressively. I think we just need to be cautious of where to spend our energy and where not to, then we’ll go from there,” Yates said in a phone interview from Europe on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old had begun to wane the days prior, admitting then he’d put on a ‘poker face’ as fatigue set from the long race and his animated racing style, something he will manage from the Grand Partenza on 11 May and in what will be his eighth Grand Tour participation.

“We were so close last year that I would really like to go back and have another go. I’m trying to arrive in the best shape possible to try and do that,” he said.

“I like to race aggressively but you can’t always do that, unfortunately. That’s what I learned from last season. I will apply those lessons and hopefully, come off with a win.”

The British climber has observed a similar albeit less prolific lead-up to the first Grand Tour of the season, which begins with an 8.2km individual time trial in Bologna that he believes will immediately determine contenders. Yates opened his season at Ruta Del Sol in February and won Stage 4. He then took line honours in the Stage 5 individual time trial at Paris-Nice and finished 13th at the Volta a Catalunya.

“I have actually raced the same number of days as last year and I’ve done exactly the same preparation as last year. I finished [racing] after Catalunya and I’ve been training at altitude exactly the same. I hope that the condition is the same as last year and then we’ll race a bit more conservatively and see how that goes,” he said.

Yates apparently didn’t dwell on his dramatic run at the Giro last season, which he finished with overall honours at the Vuelta a España. He said the defining victory in Spain has not adjusted his general outlook on Grand Tour racing, however.

“I approach it exactly the same way as I would do any race. I’m more or less always in a leadership role within the team and I like to try and win these races so for me it’s just business as usual,” he said.

Yates wouldn’t be drawn on rivals he will face in Italy including but not limited to former winner and 2018 runner-up Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), an on fire Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) as well as burgeoning Grand Tour racer Egan Bernal (Sky). World champion Alejandro Valverde’s start with Movistar is reportedly in doubt following a training crash.

“It’s a very packed field. The rivals are very strong so it may be difficult to attack,” Yates said.

2016 Giro d’Italia runner-up Esteban Chaves, 29, who missed most of last season through illness, is set to turn from contender to super domestique and will be at Yates’s disposal through the race, which features three individual time trials and seven summit finishes.

“We’ve worked very well together before and he’s a phenomenal rider. He’s slowly coming back from his illness and he is getting better day by day. I think he is more or less over it now so of course, he’s going to be a huge part in the race,” he said.

Yates previously has focused on the Tour de France, which his twin brother, Adam has since assumed team leadership of, with the Giro and Vuelta combo currently favourable to him.

“I just wanted to do a lap of the Giro. That’s what is driving me at the moment and that’s what I’ve [got] the passion for to get out of bed. For sure in the future, I will go back to the Tour at some point, but this year is not the year,” he said.