In May, the weight of the stage 16 time trial hung over Yates like an executioner. At this Vuelta a España, he won’t be facing off against some of the world’s best against the clocks in a bid for the overall title in Madrid.
That means Yates will be racing more tactically and won’t be bashing the pedals, trying to drop everyone every time the road tilts up.
“I don’t see the need to chase the jersey like I did in the Giro,” Yates said. “It’s not a necessity to keep it right now. If we can give it away, then we will do.”
Instead of attacking early and often like he did at the Giro, Yates will be saving his matches for the Vuelta’s mountainous final week. He knows he won’t need to carve out a big advantage against the likes of Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome, who he faced off against in May — neither of them are at the Vuelta.
“I am not chasing time like I was in the Giro,” Yates explained. “There are some good guys here in the time trial, but there is not a world champion like Tom Dumoulin or a Chris Froome. I will still lose some time but it will not be minutes. It is different.
“I wanted a big buffer [in the Giro] so we could control the race afterwards,” Yates continued. “Of course that fell apart anyway and that doesn’t matter. This is a completely different race.”
A winner of three stages, Yates defended the pink jersey against Dumoulin and Froome in the Giro’s time trial stage, only to collapse under the weight of Froome’s attack over the Colle delle Finestre on the penultimate climbing stage. Froome singlehandedly blew up the Giro, taking the pink jersey away from Yates and fending off Dumoulin.
And what about that Giro collapse? Even that’s a mystery to Yates.
“It’s hard to say what I learned from the Giro because I don’t know what the reason for cracking was,” he said Sunday. “If I did, I would have learned a very valuable lesson. We don’t know yet. That’s OK. Every race is different.”
Yates knows he’s not riding with the fear of losing minutes against his Vuelta rivals in the time trial, also stage 16. Perhaps the most dangerous time trialist among the Vuelta favorites is Sunweb’s Wilco Kelderman, now 14th at 1:50 back. As Yates admitted, he will likely lose time to others such as Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), fifth at 17 seconds back, but he hopes to stay even against the clock with riders like Nairo Quintana (Movistar) or Miguel Angel López (Astana).
Yates has put the Giro implosion behind him with a pair of solid pre-Vuelta results, with second at the Clásica San Sebastián and second at the Tour of Poland.
He snagged the leader’s jersey Sunday almost by surprise. Mitchelton-Scott would gladly let the jersey slip to Movistar and Alejandro Valverde, who started Tuesday’s stage just one second back.
“The big picture hasn’t changed,” Yates said. “Everyone looks to us now to control the race and we probably won’t control the race. It’s a day for the sprinters. From there on, we’ll see.”