Though the Brit is a regular on the start sheet for the Tour, his road toward it will look a little different this year. In 2020, the Mitchelton-Scott climber chooses to start his season at the UAE Tour, rather than debuting at Tour Valenciana as he has done the past three years. Later in the spring, Yates will skip his customary run at the Ardennes classics.
Why? To come in to the Tour de France fresh, something he think he missed in 2019, where his ambitions for the yellow jersey faded into obscurity.
“I wanted to keep it bit more simple and straightforward this year,” Yates told VeloNews.
“Last year didn’t go to plan, but I was winning races all through the season, from Feb to October – it just so happens that the one race I wasn’t good for was the biggest race of the calendar, and yeah, we’re just trying to rectify that.”
Last season saw Yates’s Tour podium ambitions crumble on the slopes of the Tourmalet on stage 14, where he finished almost seven minutes down on stage-winner Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). The disappointment put a tarnish on a season that saw him placing in the top-10 at each of his five early-season stage race starts, take fourth at Liége-Bastogne-Liége, and then win the overall in October’s Tour Croatia.
The way Yates tore through the start of 2019 shows how he has made a habit of coming into the season hot. At this week’s UAE Tour, he’s looking to put that early-season form to the test on the two stages finishing atop Jebel Hafeet rather than fighting in the general classification with the likes of Tadej Pogacar, Alejandro Valverde, and Chris Froome however.
“We’re just going to target the two mountaintop finishes, and see where we end up after that,” he said.” If the GC doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. I always start the season well, but I just want to test the legs and stay out of trouble here. Of course, I’d like to get a good result overall, but it’s not everything.”
Yates cites too much racing and not enough resting as the source of his 2019 Tour disappointment. The result for 2020 is that the Tour will be one-and-only, with less focus on early season stage race classification victories, and the decision to skip the Ardennes.
“If you look at the calendar, after Liege until the Dauphine, there’s not that much time to rest and then start training again,” he said. “Last year I didn’t have enough of a break, and it all added up to a bit much.”
This year, the Brit will be playing it a little cooler as he looks to better his career-best fourth overall at the Tour. In 2016, he lost out on the podium slot by 21 seconds to Nairo Quintana while countryman Froome took his third title.
“The last time I did really well was what ‘16 and we went in just super-fresh,” Yates said. “I had a month off racing before Dauphine and really freshened up. I re-build form fast and that year it worked.
“That’s why this year I’m placing less focus on the start of the season, starting a little later here [at UAE] and skipping out of the classics. I want to come in to the Tour really rested.”
Don’t be surprised to see Yates battling the GC climbers on the long slopes to the finish line at Jebel Hafeet this week. But if you don’t see him on the podium at the end of the week?
Yates has his eyes on a podium in Paris in July instead.