Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) always seems to go about his business with a minimum of fuss. The Briton was among the fallers as the Giro d'Italia peloton hurtled towards the foot of Mount Etna on Tuesday, but he calmly extricated himself from the fumbling confusion around him and re-joined the group of favourites before the race had even reached Nicolosi at the base of the climb.
"I crashed at the bottom with a couple of guys when there were 20k to go or something, but I'm not too banged up," Yates told Cyclingnews in Pedara on Wednesday. "I've just got a couple of cuts on my arm and knee and back, but actually I wasn't hurt. I got back on my bike after 20 seconds so I didn't really even have to chase."
Yates remained in situ among the group of favourites all the way to the finish line at Rifugio Sapienza, placing eighth on the stage, and now lies third overall, 10 seconds behind maglia rosa Bob Jungels (Quick-Step). The 18-kilometre haul up Etna, notably tougher than the Giro's last visit in 2011, was expected to provoke gaps among the general classification contenders, but instead, they played out something of a scoreless draw as the windy conditions tempered their attacking instincts.
"It was a block headwind, wasn't it? A couple of guys tried and they went about 50 metres up the road and they came back. When the wind's that strong it's always quite hard to do anything," Yates said. "I think there were a couple of guys like me who thought they could attack and try something here but when you stick your head into the wind and you see how strong it is, it kind of puts you off. [Ilnur] Zakarin gained a few seconds but he didn't really attack, he just slipped up the road and nobody really chased him."
For observers, it was exceedingly difficult to read the runes of the Giro's first summit finish. Nobody can say with any degree of conviction, for instance, what Vincenzo Nibali's tentative attack or Nairo Quintana's decision to stay in the wheels tells us about their respective prospects at this Giro. The picture is scarcely much clearer for those in the thick of the action.
"That's the problem: everybody was expecting a big showdown yesterday and everyone was defensive, including me," Yates grinned. "Still, even though it was defensive and easier than expected in the wheels, there was still quite a select group there. You do kind of get an idea of who's up there and focused and not losing time, but I think it's still a bit inconclusive."
Sunday's tougher summit finish at Blockhaus should, at least in theory, offer firmer indications as to the relative form of the principal contenders for the podium at this Giro and Yates – by dint of his fourth place finish at last year's Tour de France – is most certainly among them. The Bury native admitted that the ongoing détente among the favourites was something of a frustration. He was relishing the prospect of an early shake-up on Etna, and instead, the phoney war continues as far as the end of week one.
"Hopefully it's not a block headwind again, otherwise it'll be a disaster," Yates joked. "No, I'm looking forward to it. Normally in the Tour or other races I've done in the past, you'd have to wait eight or nine stages to get a big mountain stage. This is the one time we have an early mountain stage it's kind of neutralised because of the wind. I'm just looking forward to getting stuck in, testing out the other guys and seeing how everyone is going."
Unlike Quintana, Nibali or Sky's Geraint Thomas, Yates does not have a team built exclusively around him at this Giro, as Orica-Scott have also devoted resources to Caleb Ewan for the early sprints. Indeed, if anything, Yates appears relieved not to be spending his days sitting amid a phalanx of navy jerseys. A reduced retinue offers greater freedom of movement in the peloton.
"Sometimes you can have a big group around you and if you're at the back of the queue, then you're a bit far down," he said. "If I just have one or two guys looking after me, that's enough. Even on the climbs you don't really need too much looking after unless it's a block tailwind. The guys do look after me well, but it's not necessary to have nine guys all at one time in the same place."
A precocious talent, Yates was thrust into the Vuelta a España in his debut season in 2014 and has since raced two Tours de France, all before his 24th birthday. His Giro d'Italia debut offers a new kind of challenge, but not one that seems likely to faze him. Fuss is not his thing.
"It's pretty similar, really," Yates said. "It's just a bike race, isn't it? And I guess every race is just as stressful."