Simon Yates: We're riding with two leaders in the Giro d'Italia

'I'm still searching to get more time on the climbs' says Briton

Simon Yates insists that even if he is in the maglia rosa of the Giro d'Italia, he and Esteban Chaves remain as joint leaders for Mitchelton-Scott.

Questions as to how holding the top position will affect his and Chaves' status in the team have been doing the rounds of the press room ever since Yates powered across to Chaves late on stage 6's ascent of the Etna for a 1-2 finish.

But after stage 7, 24 hours after he became the fourth Briton ever to lead the Giro d'Italia, Yates continued to stick to the team's default position on the leadership question, saying that both he and Chaves - who wore the pink jersey two years ago, finally finishing second overall - will both continue to enjoy protected rider status inside the squad.

"We are riding with two leaders and that's the situation now, too," Yates commented in his post-stage press conference. "We have the aim of winning the race, and I don't see why we shouldn't continue like that."

Whilst the leadership question will probably remain a question of debate until the race decides it one way or another, Yates' first day in pink and as a Grand Tour leader was, he said, straightforward.

"It was a bit nervous at first, but with the breakaway going soon, it was quite easy, we could settle down and relax. It was a very special day."

The key question, perhaps, was how a rider who is inexperienced in leading Grand Tours in comparison to riders like Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), plans to take them on. Yates, whilst fully respecting his rivals, did not seem overly intimidated by the prospect of having to fight the two GC heavyweights all the way to Rome.

"I've already had some good results in three-week stage races" - the Best Young Rider prize in the Tour de France last year, where he placed seventh overall, as well a stage win in the 2016 Vuelta a España and sixth on GC - Yates pointed out. "So for me, it's not a problem.

"Yesterday [Thursday] I had good legs, so I just hope to have similar legs for the rest of the race. I know that form can change a lot over three weeks, but normally I'm quite a consistent rider."

Yates had no qualms in admitting that the long individual time trial on stage 16 is when he will likely be at his most vulnerable. He pointed out that although he had done a good opening test against the clock in Jerusalem, placing seventh,"it was a very different kind of course to the one in the third week.

"I think I could lose some big amounts of time there, so I'm still searching to get more time on the climbs."

The final second category ascent like Montevergine di Mercogliano on Saturday would seem to fit that particular bill. But Yates did not appear to be so sure.

"Etna was a good climb for me, it went in steps," he said. "The climbs which are more like "punch and rest, punch and rest are better for me than steady climbs" - as will be the case on the Montevergine climb.

On the plus side for Yates, is the fact that he was able to gap the rest of the GC contenders on the Etna.

Yates was also on the right side of a small late split and gained a handful of seconds on almost all the other favourites on a far less intimidating uphill finish at Caltagirone on stage 4. Then at Sant Ninfa on stage 5, Yates finished fifth, once again in the right place should the peloton shatter late on.

Saturday, then, could be a more fruitful hunting ground that it seems on paper for the Briton. And as for the Gran Sasso d'Italia on Sunday, it's clear the ball could be in Yates' court once again, too.

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