PESARO, Italy (VN) — Over the last five years, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) has made “massive” leaps ahead in his quest to become a grand tour star.

Yates is fighting for the 2019 Giro d’Italia overall after one year ago leading for 13 days and winning three mountain stages.

“Since his success in the Tour d l’Avenir [in 2013] as an under 23, he’s developed constantly,” Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick Step) told VeloNews.

“It’s a very astonishing progress. Last year, he practically almost won the Giro, won the Vuelta afterwards. You see that he’s a man on a mission here and I think he’s one of the top contenders for sure.”

Yates stated mission is to revenge his loss in the 2018 Giro d’Italia. With only 48 hours to race in 2018, he cracked and saw Chris Froome ride clear for the pink jersey and overall win in Rome.

Some revenge came in the Vuelta a España in 2018, when he applied the lessons learned in the Giro towards an overall victory – his first grand tour title.

“For sure he’s a favorite in the Giro,” Italian Champion Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step) said. “He learned a lot last year and he’s one of the best contenders here.”

Yates won two stages in the 2013 Tour de L’Avenir and a stage in the Tour of Britain before joining the pro ranks with Mitchelton. The wins began to trickle in right away, with a stage win in the 2016 Vuelta. Then in the 2017 Tour de France, he won the young rider classification.

“How much has he developed? Ah, massively I’d say!” Sam Oomen (Sunweb) added.

“I experienced it already last year in the Giro, how he was flying uphill. Now, he also won the TTs this year. It’s super impressive.”

Yates and his team always said that time trials were his weak point. Yates limited his losses in the long Giro d’Italia time trial in 2018 against Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome to keep the overall lead. It may have cost him later, but it worked in the short term.

He managed the time trials in the 2018 Vuelta a España well. And in 2019, to the surprise of many followers, he won the time trial at Paris-Nice.

“Well, if you win the TT in Paris-Nice… I think that was the only thing that was maybe missing in his skill set, so I think he’s done that,” Jungels added.

Oomen explained that the 26-year-old Englishman does not lack “so much” to take on the Tour de France.

“Before maybe it was his TT,” Oman said, “but that also got super good.”

The 2018 season may have been the turning point for Yates. That Giro loss weighed on him. He looked sharper and smarter in the Vuelta, like “a man on a mission” when he was taking on Miguel Angel López (Team Astana), Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team).

“When you win a grand tour, you develop like you are one of the best riders in the world,” Pavel Sivakov (Ineos) said. “He looks good, confident and strong.”

The Australian WorldTour team gave the Giro d’Italia leadership to Simon Yates this year and named twin brother Adam Yates as its Tour de France leader. No matter what happens in the Giro, Simon Yates will likely return to race the Vuelta.

Oomen, Sivakov and Jungels indicated that Yates could already try to win the Tour, where he placed seventh in 2017.

“We will see how good he is in this Giro, if he is as good as he was in the Vuelta last year, but it’s clear that he’s one of the best GC riders at the moment,” Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) said.

“He showed that in the last grand tours so far, but we still have to go into the mountains and it’s only been flat stages so far. We’ll see what tomorrow brings in the time trial and especially in the mountains.”