Simon Yates preaches patience as he prepares to launch another pink tilt in the Giro d’Italia. The 29-year-old is once again among the favorites to win the first Grand Tour of the year which starts on Friday in Hungary.
This is the fifth season in a row that the BikeExchange-Jayco team rider has made the Giro his primary focus, prioritizing it over the Tour de France, and this may be his best chance of winning it.
“There are a lot of things that keep me coming back,” he said. “It’s just a race that I like to run. We have a lot of Italian staff in the team, our course of service is [in Varese], and I really enjoy the atmosphere in the team when we all come together and try to win the Giro. It’s a race that suits me well, it’s a very difficult race with a lot of elevation.
For a few years it seems Yates has been focusing on the Giro to try and recapture the magic of 2018, when he won three stages in the first two weeks and spent 13 days in the leaders’ pink jersey before breaking the same. the day Chris Froome launched his stage 19 winning attack.
Yates, who won the 2018 Vuelta a España after that disappointment, finished 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 learned patience,” he says. “You have to be pretty calm. The race lasts three weeks. You can always go back to 2018 where we really tackled in the first and second weeks and then fell apart in the third.
“But even last year, I had some issues with my hamstrings in the first week, but I still did well towards the end, got a stage and made it to the podium. He you have to have an eye on the big picture, be patient and wait for the race to come to you.
With defending champion Egan Bernal out injured, 2019 winner Richard Carapaz is the favorite to lead a strong Ineos Grenadiers side, but the bookmakers have Yates ahead of João Almeida and Mikel Landa as the most likely man to challenge the Ecuadorian.
“Runners just can’t wait to get started,” Yates said. “There are others who will be competitive. Take it back to last year. I had won the Tour of the Alps [coming into the Giro] and I kept reading that I was a big favorite. Romain Bardet won the Tour des Alpes this year and I haven’t heard of him so there are a few guys flying under the radar.
With more than 50,000 m of elevation gain and only 26.6 km of time trial in three weeks, this Giro is like that of mountain goats fighting against the clock. It’s a category that has often included Yates, although he has improved his time trial bike significantly, as shown by his fifth-place finish on stage four of Paris-Nice in March. A few weeks later, Yates suffered from an illness which forced him to retire from Vuelta a Catalunya.
His only race since then was the Vuelta Asturias last weekend, where he took impressive victories on stages one and three but lost more than 10 minutes on stage two. “I feel good,” he said. “I won two good stages and the feelings are good.
“Day two was my first exposure to very hot conditions and in the past I’ve struggled with my first exposure of the year. But I’m not worried. We’ll see once the race starts.