Giro d'Italia

Simon Yates expects to play catch-up game against time trialists during Giro d’Italia

Climber will be forced to attack in mountains to recover lost ground against the clock.

Simon Yates is back again to try to knock off the Giro d’Italia.

The Mitchelton-Scott star’s fast start and epic implosion in 2018 continues to drive his ambition to even the score with the Italian grand tour.

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Now he’s back for his third crack at the Giro, and will be facing a course similar to the 2018 route. There are a lot of time trials and many more mountains. With that profile, he knows he will be playing a game of catch-up against GC rivals who are better time trialists.

“It’s not my specialty,” Yates said of his time trialing skills. “I am never going to be one of the guys who are going to wait for the time trial to take time.”

The 2020 Giro route is book-ended by time trials. The race opens Saturday with a very fast 15.1km time trial down runs mostly downhill from Monreale to Palermo. There’s a longer, more rolling time trial at 34.1km in stage 14. The race ends with a flat, 15.7km course in Milano.

Yates knows he will need to take time in the mountains if he has a chance to win the pink jersey, and would need to go into the final time trial in Milano with a buffer.

He also admitted he will be starting the Giro with a time handicap, when he expects to lose time right out of the gate Saturday in Palermo.

“We start with the prologue, which I expect to lose some time. It’s all downhill, it’s the worst time trial I could imagine, so I will be on the back foot there,” Yates said. “I will have to make up some time somewhere. Where? Your guess is good as mine.”

Yates, 28, took lessons out of the 2018 Giro that helped him win the Vuelta a España later that year. Last year, after his Giro bid fizzled without making much of a real run at pink, finishing eighth overall, he lit up the 2019 Tour de France, winning two stages as he raced without pressure on the GC.

This year, he left the Tour to his twin brother, Adam, who wore the yellow jersey and finished ninth in Paris. Yates recently won Tirreno-Adriatico, giving him confidence he can wrestle back time on the climbs.

“The final week is really hard. I know some of the stages, not all of them, but I am confident in that I know I can do a good job,” he said. “I will have to take some time when I can. I’ve really tried to prepare in the best way possible, so I am hoping in a good race.”

Yates is confident he won’t lose too much time against the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), or Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma). It’s his compatriot he’s worried about.

So for 2020, he’s swapping out 2018 Giro-winner Chris Froome with Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), recently fourth at the world time trial championship.

“None of the other GC guys are in the same class in time trials as Geraint Thomas,” Yates said. “A lot of guys are going to shape their race around him. It’s going to be interesting. If you saw him at the world’s time trial, he obviously is very good.”

Yates will be surrounded by a strong Mitchelton-Scott team that sport director Matt White said has been targeting the Giro as their central focus since the reworked racing calendar was finalized months ago.

With so many time trials, White said the team will clearly have to take a tactical approach at being aggressive when it counts in the final half of the race.

White said at the Giro, “it’s always the mountains” that decide the winner.

“There is a lot of time trials this year, more than I’ve seen in a long time,” White said. “What stands out is the first five days is not easy. It’s a very tough start to the Giro, and the back-end is extremely tough. You can be the best time trialist in the race, but if you cannot handle the brutality of the last week, you won’t win.”

That’s what Yates and Mitchelton-Scott is banking on.