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Yates braces for ‘intense’ return to racing

British star still hasn't decided how his calendar will shape up, but said he's fit and ready to race after weeks of hitting the indoor trainer.

No one knows what to expect if and when racing resumes, but Simon Yates is sure of thing: it will be unlike anything the peloton has seen before.

“It’s going to be a very intense period,” Yates said Thursday. “There are so many races in such a short period of time. It’s going to be stressful and intense.”

The Mitchelton-Scott cycling star has been holed up in Andorra, and despite some easing of restrictions, he still has not trained outdoors since lockdown in mid-March. Speaking to journalists during a conference call, the 2018 Vuelta a España champion said everyone in the peloton is itching to race again.

And with many teams facing uncertain futures, and hundreds of pros in a contract year, Yates believes the racing will be spicy.

“When racing does start again for everybody, that’s their chance to win,” Yates said. “We’ve not had many chances to win, so people will try to make the most of it. This year will be concentrated in one part of the year, and all the riders will be extremely motivated to try to win. That’s a reason it’s going to be an intense period of racing.”

Yates, 27, hasn’t raced since the Herald Sun Tour, in Australia, in early February. Bush fires were the big worry then. Like everyone, his racing calendar has been turned upside down by the coronavirus race-stoppage. Yates’ initial plans for 2020 were to target the Giro d’Italia and Olympic Games. And with the Tokyo Games delayed until 2021, Yates still doesn’t know how his abbreviated 2020 season might shape up.

“It’s all up in the air. I’ve not had a discussion to lay out the rest of the year,” he said. “I need to have the conversation. One of the reasons to go for the Giro was to go to the Olympics. With the Olympics being next year, that changes things. It’s really up in the air in what I will be doing this year. We’ll have those conversations in the next few days.”

Yates said he’s been quite happy hitting the indoor trainer and spending time at home. Mitchelton-Scott has organized a series of online Zwift rides, and Yates has dived into the virtual racing scene. Despite being cleared to train outdoors with some restrictions of hours and routes in Andorra, he’s waiting it out until conditions improve. He rated his fitness is quite good, and believes there will be time to train on open roads before racing resumes, ideally in August.

“I’m quite happy inside on the home trainer. I can do my work. I’m happy cruising around on Zwift,” he said. “It’s going to be very intense, there’s no hiding from that.

“Normally the grand tours are physical enough on their own, and if you do the Giro-Vuelta, you have months to recover. Here we are going to be back to back. It could have a big effect,” he said. “It depends on what the other riders have been doing. Some guys who don’t enjoy the home trainer, and it could affect them. I think I’ll be OK. I’ve been getting involved with Zwift, and the condition is fine. There is plenty of time to get fit again and train properly outside if the restrictions allow. We might see one or two surprises.”

Yates said he’s going to be more concentrated on racing than worrying about his contract. Yates has raced with Mitchelton-Scott since turning pro in 2014, and after winning the 2018 Vuelta and two stages in last year’s Tour de France, he would be a top transfer prospect under normal conditions.

“With so many teams with cuts, it’s unprecedented time we’re living through,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next year in regard to contracts. We should concentrate first on racing.”

And finally, Yates deferred larger questions of health and safety to the appropriate authorities. If teams get the green light to race, Yates promises he’ll be ready.

“I’m not a scientist, I ride a bike for a living,” he said. “It’s hard to say what the best course of action is. I’ll leave that to government and health experts. We’ll follow those rules. If they say it’s safe to race, then we can do.”