Although both plummeted down the classification on Thursday’s sixth stage when a break of 13 non-threatening riders were let off the leash, it has by and large been an ideal start for the 26-year-old Englishman.
“Of course he would’ve preferred if he didn’t drop himself the other day,” teammate Jack Bauer told VeloNews, referring to Yates’s 16-second time loss on stage four due to a small crash. “I would hope [he learned from the 2018 Giro]. If you are not learning from every race you do, you should probably open your eyes and think a little bit.”
Last year Yates led the race for 13 days only to falter in the final week. Now he is out to make amends in the Giro.
“It’s important to gain experience especially from leading a big race like the Giro,” said Bauer. “I’m sure he himself grew as a rider from last year. I think that shows in his mentality and his approach, and how calm he is for his challenge this year.”
Yates came out of the gates quickly in 2018: He won three summit finish stages and held the pink jersey all the way to stage 19. Chris Froome launched his bid for victory that day, and Yates, who had been gradually weakening, got dramatically blown out of contention.
When the race finished in Rome, Yates sat 21st overall. However, he learned how to better use his energies. He took that to the Vuelta a España later in the year and struck his first grand tour win. He says that he now wants “revenge” in the 2019 Giro.
“We are really in a good place now,” Colombian Esteban Chaves said. “We are playing our cards.”
Although Yates now sits in 15th place, over five minutes behind Valerio Conti, the more significant deficit is the 35 seconds 12th place Roglic has over him. But until Thursday’s stage, staying behind Roglic and the commitments of race leadership had its advantages.
Chaves knows that the pink jersey brings pleasure, but also responsibility. He won the Mount Etna stage in 2018 when team mate Yates took the lead for the first of 13 days.
“We are conservative of course, but then the course calls for that,” said Chaves. “We are doing well and we will see what will happen, especially in the time trial.”
Besides the time trials on stage one and stage nine, the race runs mostly flat for a long 12 days. Not until stage 13 to Lago Serrù does it finish with a serious climb. This year, more than last, Mitchelton-Scott must race with reserve.
“The less responsibility you have in the race, the more you save for the last week when it will really make a difference,” said Bauer.