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After taking a thrilling victory on the final stage of Paris-Nice, and coming agonizingly close to toppling Primož Roglič from the head of the standings, Simon Yates’s sports director, Matt White, believes that the British climber is on track for a major assault on the Giro d’Italia.
Yates came into the all-important final stage of Paris-Nice with 47 seconds to make up on race leader Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and the BikeExchange-Jayco leader had the Slovenian on the ropes when he dropped him and put almost 30 seconds between himself and the yellow jersey on the Col d’Eze.
Roglic would eventually rescue the title, thanks largely due to the support of Wout van Aert, but it was Yates who came out of Paris-Nice with his first win of the season and a morale boost ahead of his next objective.
- Simon Yates on Primož Roglič: ‘He’s not even breathing, everyone else is panting like they’re on their deathbeds’
- Primož Roglič banishes demons with Paris-Nice victory: ‘The past doesn’t decide your future’
“Simon has big ambitions. He’s won Tirreno and he wanted to try and win Paris-Nice. We came up a little bit short against Roglic but the main thing for us is the progression and building towards the spring, and then the Giro d’Italia,” White told VeloNews as he traveled from Nice to Italy for some Giro recon.
“We saw a nice effort from Simon in Andalucia and then a better effort from him here in Paris-Nice. He’s building his condition and we’re in a good place. He’s had an uninterrupted winter, and that’s been a big bonus.
According to White, the fact that Yates has enjoyed an injury-free winter has meant that there’s a calmness and sense of stability heading deeper into the bulk of the season. Yates has once again decided to focus his GC ambitions entirely on the Giro d’Italia this year, with his possible role at the Tour de France centered on stage wins. The climber was third last year in the Giro but came desperately close to winning the race in 2018 before cracking in the last few days.
“He’s exactly where he needs to be ahead of the Giro,” said White. “He’ll have an easy week this week, and then it’s off to Catalunya. Then he has a big break. The main thing for winter is getting through an uninterrupted period. He’s had a really good winter and if something happens now he still has December, January, February, and March under his belt.
“It means that you can afford to have those little obstacles in front of you but if you haven’t got that base under you then all those little hiccups like crashes or illness can derail you. We’re in a good place, it’s obviously still two months to go but we’re happy with the progression from December.”
On the final stage in Paris-Nice the cold weather certainly became a factor and the bruising week-long race saw less than 60 riders make it to the final stage. Yates’s attack on the final climb blew the race apart, and although Roglič never completely cracked, Yates certainly had the race in the balance.
White added that the aim going into the final day of racing was the target the stage but that the loss of Dani Martínez from the lead group changed the dynamic of the race.
Martínez had been in the leading group that contained Yates and Roglič but a rear-wheel puncture just before the final climb robbed Yates of a possible ally.
“You never know how people are going to react to the cold but Simon saw a moment there on the climb where he could test van Aert and Roglic. When he got a gap he put his head down and went for it. Realistically we didn’t think that we could win the race with the gap that we had but it was always worth a try,” White said.
“Losing Martínez did change the dynamic but we don’t know if that was a positive or negative. It could have been a positive if Martínez could have moved with Simon. Then the two of them could have gone away and put time into Roglic. Or it could have gone the other way and Martínez could have worked with Roglic and van Aert and then Simon wouldn’t have won the stage. You never know but it did change the dynamic.”
For Yates, White, and their team, the win on Sunday also ends a long drought without a WorldTour win. The last victory for the team at that level came in last year’s Giro d’Italia, almost a year ago, and White hopes that the spark has been lit ahead of major objectives, such as Milan-San Remo, Catalunya, and the rest of the cobbled classics.
“Our last WorldTour win was at the Giro d’Italia so it’s been a long time. It’s a big win, and second overall but we’ve got a busy month ahead. But this is what we came here to do: win some points, pick off some stages, and progress towards the Giro. We ticked all those boxes this week.
“It’s good to know that your leader is on track. We’ve started off well this year but March is a big month for us. We’ve got a lot of ambitions with Milan-San Remo coming up, Catalunya, and then the classics. It’s a big month with a lot of points coming up, and we’re tracking well.”