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Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates is headed into the 2018 Giro d’Italia as one half of a formidable one-two punch.
In Yates and his teammate Esteban Chaves, Mitchelton’s Giro lineup has two bona fide GC contenders. Yates won the best young rider classification at last year’s Tour de France. Chaves counts two grand tour podium finishes to his name, including a runner-up result at the 2016 Giro.
Yates and Chaves are both talented climbers who typically find themselves at a disadvantage against the clock. That makes this Giro a particularly appetizing option for the pair.
“The Giro, and even in the Tour a couple of years ago, they used to have super long time trials. Of course, at this Giro, there’s not many many kilometers of time trialing, which I think does suit us,” Yates told VeloNews ahead of his Italian grand tour debut. “We’re small guys, we’re going to lose some time [in TTs]. So I think that’s a really big plus for us.”
That said, the race does kick off with a short time trial in Jerusalem, with another ride against the clock in stage 16. Yates did not deny the challenge he and Chaves would face limiting their early losses against time trial heavy hitters like Chris Froome (Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).
“We’re going to lose time. There’s nothing we can do about it. I do a lot of work on the TT bike but I don’t produce the power that is needed to really challenge these guys,” Yates said.
“I believe we have a really good chance, but we’re going to start this race probably down already in a way. That affects how we race. But we’ll see when we get there — anything can happen.”
It should help that Yates has enjoyed a strong Giro build-up of his own. He powered to convincing stage victories and solid GC rides at both Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya this spring. He says he is confident in his form — and he isn’t resting on those early-season laurels either.
“I’ve done quite well this spring. I’ve had some really nice results,” he said. “But we’ve always been looking toward the Giro. They were just kind of side goals along the way. Stepping stones if you like. All the preparation has been toward the Giro, the characteristics of the Giro. The long climbs, the steep climbs, high altitude climbs.”
Yates may have taken the white jersey at last year’s Tour, following brother Adam who claimed it in 2016. But unlike Adam, Simon has yet to land in the top five of a grand tour. Now 25 and past the age cutoff, he won’t have the consolation prize of a young rider’s classification win waiting for him if his GC aspirations go awry.
That doesn’t mean he’s going to race any differently.
“In the past, I have always raced to win [the GC] outright. I’ve just not been good enough,” he said. “So the preparation is very similar. You fine-tune it toward the characteristics of the race. But the actual way I race, it doesn’t change that much.”
Yates expects his partnership with Chaves to bear fruit in the team’s quest for general classification results.
Multi-pronged approaches to grand tours have faced mixed results historically, but Yates and Chaves have had some success as a pair before. At the 2016 Vuelta a España, Chaves landed third overall behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Froome, while Yates delivered his first career grand tour top 10 with a sixth-place finish.
“We’ve worked well together in the past. We have a great relationship,” Yates said. “I don’t see why we can’t do that again. It’s an advantage that we have two guys.”
Yates pointed out that the team can also rely on Roman Kreuziger, who enjoyed a strong spring campaign. The 31-year-old Czech all-rounder counts as many grand tour top 10s on his career palmares as Yates and Chaves combined. Increasingly focused on stage racing in recent years, Mitchelton has made signing veterans like Kreuziger a priority in an effort to put its grand tour squads over the top.
With that in mind, Yates is bullish on Mitchelton’s lineup ahead of his biggest season goal.
“For me, we have one of the strongest teams,” he said. “Can you name another team that has the depth that we have here? I’m not sure you can. We really have a great squad. We’re going to have to use that to our advantage if we can.”