The Giro's final time trial could put Simon Yates on the ropes, but he's content with his haul of three stage wins so far.
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So far this Giro, he has blown away his rivals on four summit finishes. The first one at Mount Etna he gave to his teammate Esteban Chaves and the other three — Gran Sasso, Osimo, and Sappada — he took himself in the race leader’s pink jersey.
He has been in the race lead for 10 days. Oddly, if he lost the lead and the chance to win the Giro, he would be “fine” and not worry too much.
“I am relaxed, feel good,” Yates said. “If I blow up and explode in final week, or lose five minutes in the time trial, we’re fine with what I’ve done at the moment. If I cannot win, that’s OK, I would not lose sleep.”
Yates and his twin brother have had the attention of the British media and then the global press since the amateur ranks. They dominated stage races and instead of signing with the home team, Sky, they went to Australia’s WorldTour team in 2014.
The team gradually developed them and Colombian Esteban Chaves. Yates won stages in the Vuelta a España, Paris-Nice, and the Tour de Romandie. His grand tour debut was in 2014, and in 2016 when he finished sixth in the Vuelta, he realized what was possible. He realized that a day like today with the pink jersey could arise.
“This is what I wanted to do when I turned professional, working toward that from the beginning. There really wasn’t a moment that I can name but in that Vuelta in 2016, I finished top 10, it wasn’t an ‘I can do this moment,’ it was confirmation that I can race for three weeks and be competitive,” Yates said.
He went on to finish seventh in the 2017 Tour de France.
“I don’t know, I am getting a bit older, stronger, more confident every year,” he added. “The team knows how I work and do things, small little things that come together, like learning from past mistakes. I’m watching my weight, it’s best it’s ever been — small things that make the difference.
“I was never that far away from being up there in the grand tours, in the last year or two, but few small changes here and there made the difference.”
Yates rode two grand tours in 2017 to develop. Over the last eight months, he has been spending more time on his time trial bike to be ready to win, and defend himself in tests like stage 16’s 34.2-kilometer stage.
The team’s general manager, Shayne Bannan added, “Also his climbing ability and his endurance has improved. Overall we’ve seen a really good package develop.”