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Giro d'Italia

Simon Yates says ‘patience’ key to battling for pink jersey at Giro d’Italia

BikeExchange-Jayco sport director Matt White signals Ineos Grenadiers and Richard Carapaz as the clear favorites for the 2022 pink jersey.

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BUDAPEST (VN) — In 2018, a brash and ambitious Simon Yates barnstormed to the pink jersey in his debut Giro d’Italia only to succumb to the brutality of the race’s infamous final week.

Flash forward to 2022, and the 29-year-old Yates brings a deeper respect and some lessons learned to Budapest as he takes on the Giro puzzle with ambitions to hit the final podium in Verona.

“Just patience,” Yates said when asked what he’s learned since his 2018 breakout. “You need to be quite calm, because the race is three weeks. Of course we can always go back to 2018 where we went after it in the first week.

“Even last year I had some problems with my hamstrings in the first week but still managed to arrive on the podium,” Yates said. “You’ve got to keep the three weeks in mind, and wait for the race to come to you.”

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After his dramatic Giro debut, Yates has since emerged as one of the most consistent and steady performers among the stage racers, capped by winning the 2018 Vuelta a España, stage wins in all three grand tours, and third in the 2021 Giro.

BikeExchange-Jayco sport director Matt White said Yates and the entire franchise is more experienced about managing the efforts across three weeks.

With Yates, White also knows he has one of the few active grand tour winners in the bunch, and brings a team to fully back him in the push for pink.

“Definitely for the Giro, we can’t just look at 2018. It was Simon’s first Giro and the first time he’s raced in Italy,” White said. “In 2018 we were very much going into the unknown. Four years on we’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs and you gain a lot of experience out of those years.

“The Giro and Italian racing suits Simon’s characteristics,” White said. “There are no lucky winners of the Giro. It’s a very demanding three-week tour.”

For Yates, the math is simple enough: don’t lose time early, limit the losses in the time trials, and attack in the mountains.

Despite falling ill during the Volta a Catalunya, Yates came off an altitude training block to win two stages at his final warmup race at the Vuelta a Asturias.

Yates says he’s ready to rumble.

“We just need to manage the race as best as possible,” he said. “I would prefer to never have a bad day, but that’s not how the sport works unfortunately. I feel the preparation has gone well this year, and that will allow me to not have any bad days across the three weeks.”

BikeExhange-Jayco in elite company with Simon Yates

Simon Yates won the 2018 Vuelta a España to confirm his GC credentials. (Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

In fact, Yates and his BikeExchange-Jayco team is among only three squads that’s won one of cycling’s three grand tours in the past five years that does not come from among the sport’s top three deepest and richest teams of Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma, and UAE Team Emirates.

Movistar won the 2019 Giro with Richard Carapaz, who’s now on Ineos Grenadiers. Sunweb/Team DSM won the 2017 Giro with Tom Dumoulin, who now races with Jumbo-Visma.

All three of those dominant teams come to the Giro with competitive squads, with the likes of Carapaz, Dumoulin, and João Almeida at UAE, respectively, leading as pre-race Giro favorites.

Yates and BikeExchange-Jayco admit they’re playing a bit of a role of underdog against these well-funded, deeper teams.

“There are a lot of strong teams outside those guys as well, but it’s more their numbers in depth that set them apart really,” Yates said. “They can bring multiple leaders across multiple races across different programs. For us we really have to target here, target there, and really focus on our goals.

“Racing against them is like racing against anybody. In that regard, it’s not much different really.”

White signaled Ineos Grenadiers with Carapaz as the clear favorite for this Giro.

“I think there is a clear favorite, I think Carapaz is the favorite,” White said. “We know they’re the biggest team in our sport and they’ve come here to win. Other teams will find their way, but as Simon says. there’s a group of favorites but Carapaz will be seen by most, and they will have more responsibility in the race.”

In addition to its impressive run at the Tour de France, Ineos Grenadiers has won three of the past four editions of the Giro, with Chris Froome in 2018, Tao Geoghegan Hart in 2020, and Egan Bernal in 2021.

Yates said he agreed that Carapaz stands apart, but cautioned about only focusing on Ineos Grenadiers in this Giro that some observers call the most wide open in years.

“With Carapaz, surely they have the strongest team, and he’s won the race before,” Yates said. “I think it’s normal to class him as the favorite but I think there will be many others who will be competitive, not just those three teams.

“It’s a long way to the finish, we’ll try to do our best, and hopefully we can arrive on the podium.”

Simon Yates: ‘You can’t change your whole style of racing to go for points’

BikeExchange-Jayco is under pressure to earn more UCI points. (Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Despite some top spring successes, BikeExchange-Jayco is languishing near the bottom of the WorldTour team rankings.

With the possibility of relegation hanging in the air going into the next round of WorldTour licenses, Yates was asked if the team is getting pressure about chasing points.

“Personally I don’t think about it that much,” Yates said. “I think if we continue to do the best racing and results possible that will come. You never know but I don’t think it will be a huge problem for us.

“Our main goals still lie ahead, and other teams come out all gun a blazing in the early races, our goals are from now onwards,” he said. “Of course it’s always in the back of your mind, all you can do is focus on getting the best results anyway. You can’t just change your whole racing style to go after points after you’ve set your targets already for the year.”

Yates knows what happens early doesn’t always dictate how things turn out in the end. He learned that in the 2018 Giro, and applied those lessons to win the Vuelta later that season.

Be it the hunt for points in the team rankings or chasing the pink jersey, it’s about being consistent and staying upright and healthy that count in the long run.

“Take it back to last year, I won Tour of the Alps, then I read everywhere I was the favorite to win,” Yates said. “Bardet won there, and no one’s even talking about him. There are a lot of guys who have good form and are flying under the radar a bit. Bahrain also has a good team, but we’ll see once we get on the road.”