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With the decisive Blockhaus stage on the horizon Sunday, the British star is racing with his right knee wrapped in black kinesio tape from a mishap in stage 4 after the Giro returned to Italy.
“It’s not at 100 percent but it’s getting better every day and it’s not impeding me,” Yates said at the start Saturday. “I hit the curb with my knee, unfortunately and that’s what did the damage.
“There was a crash in front of me. I could actually stop but somebody plowed into me from behind,” Yates said. “They don’t know how to use their brakes, but I don’t know who he was.”
Also read: Simon Yates crashes early in stage
That worrisome nagging injury is just the kind of thing that can derail a grand tour campaign. So far, Yates hasn’t been overly impacted by the injury, and is being treated nightly after each stage.
“The knee is getting better every day. It’s not at 100 percent, but it’s fine,” he insisted Saturday.
Yates made it through Saturday’s technical circuit course in Napoli and is in the pole position to make a move on Sunday’s Blockhaus stage.
Yates said he didn’t have a chance to recon the climb due to what he called “logistical” issues with travel earlier this season, but has been conferring with his brother, Adam, who raced it in 2017.
The Blockhaus climb, with steep and uneven ramps, is just the kind of summit finale that Yates can shine on.
“I expect a big showdown Sunday, but I’m also in a good position. At the moment I would like to say I’m in front, so I don’t need to be the one to be aggressive,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be a very aggressive race, the first big explosion and GC action, but we’ll see what they do,” he said of his rivals.
“I’m doing OK. Not much has happened in the GC since the TT, and I think everybody’s taking a calm approach which is good for me.”
Lawson Craddock: ‘We are building confidence every day’
Yates lauded his teammates, who so far have been protecting his flanks and being there in the key moments so far.
“The team is in really good shape, I think it’s one of the best ones we’ve ever put together,” Yates said. “The guys have been with me in the final on the last few days. A few of the big guys sitting up just to save some energy so we’re all good.”
One of those riders is Lawson Craddock, who said the team morale is sky high despite Yates’s nagging knee issue.
“I think for Simon everything is going well and we’re in a good spot overall,” Craddock told VeloNews. “The most important thing is that we are building confidence every day and we are preparing to make our assault on this Giro.”
Craddock rode at the front in Friday’s challenging climbing stage and once again set the pace in Saturday’s hilly circuit course in Napoli.
“I think we all did some work Friday,” Craddock said. “Stage 6 was one of the easiest races all year and yesterday was one of the hardest stages we’ve done all year. It was the third-most climbing meters in the whole race.
“We are in a really good, good place,” Craddock said. “Sunday could be one of the most decisive stages in the entire Giro. We will see the race really kick off Sunday, but it’s also about making it safe and healthy every day.”
It was mission accomplished Saturday. Now it’s up to Yates to finish it off Sunday.