The luxury for Orica-Scott is that they have three of the most dynamic climbers in the peloton in the form of Esteban Chaves and the Yates brothers, Simon and Adam. Three leaders for three Grand Tours: it makes perfect sense. But while the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España routes for 2018 are yet to be unveiled, Simon Yates has hinted at returning to the Tour de France next season.
Yates finished 7th in the 2017 edition of the Tour, picking up the white jersey as the best young rider for his efforts. After seeing next year’s route presented by Christian Prudhomme in Paris on Tuesday, the Briton stopped just short of delivering a concrete intent to return to the race for back-to-back challenges.
“We’ll see. There’s still a lot of planning to do and the presentations for the Giro and the Vuelta,” Yates told Cyclingnews. “But we’ll have to see. Why not?”
Asked if he would lead the team come July, Yates said: “It really depends on the routes and the feelings of the other guys. We’ve cards to play and we can decide who goes where and how we’re going to play.”
Should Simon Yates be Orica’s designated Tour leader it would leave his brother Adam and Chaves as the team’s options for the Giro and the Vuelta. That said, Orica sent two of their leaders to the Tour this year after Chaves’ spring was ravaged by injury and then turned up at the Vuelta with all three captains.
“I just have to keep improving,” Yates said of his own Grand Tour ambitions. “I was seventh last year in the GC and I’d rather keep raising the roof, keep going, target the podium and go from there.”
Critical first week
Next season’s Tour de France begins in the Vendée region for the first time since 2011. Yates was a promising under-23 talent back then, winning a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir that summer. Now 25, he has five Grand Tours under his belt.
“It’s a testing route, as always. I think that the first week will be decisive for the GC and that’s before we get to the mountains. I would prefer the climbs earlier,” Yates said.
The opening half of the race is littered with potential pitfalls for the GC contenders. The first two stages could be plagued by cross-winds, while the stage 3 team time trial will undoubtedly create significant gaps in the overall standings. Stage 9 to Roubaix, with its 15 sectors of cobbles, has also been pinpointed as one of the most important days of racing.
“The cobbled stage and the early exposed roads will be important. We’re going to need a strong team, not just for the team time trial, but the entire race so that we can protect the leader from the wind and any dangerous moments. It’s going to be very testing, even from the beginning," said Yates.
The Tour last featured a team time trial back in 2015, when Orica limped through the event after they were decimated by illness and injury. That said, they still boast one of the most prominent time trial squads in the peloton.
“I’m really confident in our team time trial. We’re one of the strongest teams on paper for that. Even if we only bring a few of the guys for that we’re going to be going really fast. A lot of people get nervous for the team time trial but for me, we’re never nervous, because we’ve such a strong team,” Yates said.
“As for the cobbles, I prefer not to ride them. I did them as an amateur but they don’t really suit me because of my weight. It’s going to be difficult but it’s okay.”