Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) led for most of last year’s Giro d’Italia only to show frailty on stage 18 before utterly imploding a day later when Chris Froome launched his race-winning attack on the gravel roads of the Colle delle Finestre. The British rider has won the Vuelta a Espana since then of course and seems to have brought more than a little confidence to this year’s Giro, which starts today.
“I’ve been thinking about this race for almost 12 months now,” Yates told the Guardian. “I’ve been very dedicated, very focused about it. If I was in my rivals’ position, I would be scared. I would be shitting myself.”
While the bookies’ favourite is Slovenian former ski jumper Primoz Roglic, who won the Tour of Romandie last week, Yates disagrees. Asked who he considered to be the favourite, he pointed to himself.
This year’s route gets progressively more mountainous as the race wears on. Perhaps mindful of running out of steam last year, Yates says it, “lends itself to being conservative in the beginning. The hardest part of the race is at the end. We have an idea how to approach these races now.”
Elaborating on this, he said: “There are lots of responsibilities that come with leading a big race that people might not be aware of – things like the podium presentation and media interviews.
“You end up travelling back to the hotel two hours after your team-mates so you eat alone and get to bed later. There’s a build-up of stress and it’s one of the reasons I ultimately failed last year.”
Team Sky (now Team Ineos) might be most closely associated with the philosophy, but one of Yates’ own marginal gains will involve travelling back to the hotel in a van rather than a car.
“It might seem like a strange thing to say but when you’ve done 250km on a bike, being able to stretch your legs out is massive.”
Seemingly unperturbed by the weather forecast, the Briton will be the third-to-last rider to set off in today’s opening time trial, the most notable feature of which is a steep climb to the finish.
"Saturday’s weather is just a prediction,” he said. “Nobody knows really what it’ll be like. I normally want to know my opponents’ time and work around that. So I stick to the plan and start last from my team. I won’t change bike at the bottom of the climb.
“There are many favourites for the Giro but I do believe that I’m in great shape and I’m confident in winning it. I’m confident in my abilities. I’ve dedicated the last twelve months to this race now.
“I know that time trials will make my task very difficult against the likes of Dumoulin and Roglic but I won the last time trial I did [at Paris-Nice]. I’ll see straight away from stage 1 here and I’ll take it from there."