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Yet when won it after all-or-nothing bid to win stage 4, he wasn’t going to let it go. The Trek-Segafredo rider buried himself Saturday to drop world champion Julian Alaphilippe up Monte Carpegna.
Those points put him into the green jersey for good, and set the tone going into the spring classics season.
“You could see on the TV how much I was suffering. It takes a lot of effort to get my weight up a climb like that.” Simmons said at the start Sunday. “After you spend you spend five hours in a breakaway, you owe it to yourself to try to keep going.”
Also read: Simmons’ form rising ahead of classics push
Simmons needed to be in the breakaway Saturday and hit points up the first of two passages up Monte Carvegna to secure the green climber’s jersey this week.
A trip to the final podium Sunday wasn’t part of the plan, but winning the climber’s jersey just how well Simmons is going early in 2022.
“That wasn’t a goal,” Simmons said of the climber’s jersey. “I was here to help ‘Cicco’ [Giulio Ciccone – ed], and I was hoping to try for a stage, and to prepare for the classics. We missed out on the stage, but this is a nice prize.”
The climb, one of the favored training routes of the late Marco Pantani, was lined with rowdy fans for Saturday’s big GC battle.
Also read: Simmons lights up white roads
Simmons, whose pro career so far has largely coincided with a world pandemic, soaked up the scene. At 75kg, it wasn’t easy, but the cheers helped ease the sting.
“I haven’t raced so much as a pro when we’re been allowed to have fans. So every time you have people back at the races and cheering you on, it’s quite special,” Simmons said. “Normally for me, I am 30 minutes behind on a climb like that, and everyone is already packed up to leave.”
‘I hope to hold the form for a few weeks’
Hot off seventh at Strade Bianche, Simmons will take off this week and return to his European base in Girona, Spain, ahead of the northern classics.
“It’s a good start to the season. I took a bit of a gamble starting late, but I worked well with my coach and performance director through the winter, and I came with a plan. I’ve learned more each year what works for me so if I can have a good winter at home, I can start quite well.
“Now we hope to hold it for a few more weeks,” he said. “Mads [Pedersen] was good at Paris-Nice and Jasper [Stuyven] is riding well. We are in a good place going into the classics. The best guys will be there, but we have two guys who can beat.”
No Milan-San Remo this year
Simmons said Milan-San Remo is not in the cards, but he’ll be busy racing in the northern classics all the way through Paris-Roubaix.
“I’d like to do Milan-San Remo but it just doesn’t fit in now. With the efforts we put in this week, it’s just too much. I need the 10 days to take a bit of a break,” he said. “Last year I did it, and it was a really nice experience with Jasper winning it, but you have to pick your peaks. It’s a race and I’d like to come back and do it, and maybe even target, but not this year.”