Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) won Sunday's GP Industria & Artigianato in Italy and is a real contender for overall success at this week's Tirreno-Adriatico, but the Briton is still flying under the radar in Italy and seems to be enjoying his underdog status.
The Italian media and the Italian tifosi seem to have forgotten that Yates was fourth overall and best young rider in the 2016 Tour de France and are giving him little attention before this week's Tirreno-Adriatico and for the Giro d'Italia.
Yates, 24, is pragmatic but also at ease in that position. He also does not seem fazed by the excitement, confusion and passion that often reigns and influences Italian races. That will be a big advantage come May and the Giro.
In 2015, Yates finished ninth in his Tirreno-Adriatico debut, although the cancellation of the key mountain stage due to snow last year limited his chances of a better overall result.
"This is usually the only race I do in Italy apart from Lombardia at the end of the season. But having the Giro d'Italia as my first big goal and my big Grand Tour of the season gives me a new challenge," Yates told Cyclingnews.
"This year is the first time I'll ride the Giro d'Italia, so it's all new to me. I'd love to say I'll go there and would love to do that, but it's my first time and I don't know the race, so we'll see what happens."
Yates will target the Giro d'Italia and then the Vuelta a Espana, alongside his twin brother Simon, while Esteban Chaves leads Orica-Scott at the Tour de France. Yates considers riding two Grand Tours in the same season as a key step to future success in the three-week races.
He is wary of making any bold predictions due to the field at the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia and because the race route includes two important time trials.
"I reckon this year's race will be a little bit tough for me due to the time trials. They're hard ones but they're longish too. I'm going to lose a chunk of time but that's how it is. I've been working on my time trial technique, and we're getting there but its not easy," he explained.
Two key time trials
Yates will also face two time trials in this week's Tirreno-Adriatico, with the opening 22.7km team time trial on Wednesday in Lido di Camaiore and the 10km test in San Benedetto del Trento ending the race. Both will be important for overall victory, with the team time trial likely to shape the rest of the race.
"The problem with the opening team time trial here is that you either gain 10 seconds or you lose 10 seconds unless some team just smashes it," Yates explained succinctly.
"We've got half of our TTT squad here and they're good guys for it, so I'm hopeful. We went out training today and the guys are on form and riding well. They know the course and have ridden it before, so we hope we can do well.
"We also know what the stage 2 is like. It's a tough finish, so we're hoping for a good start to the race. We'll see what happens on the mountain finish to Terminillo and after that.
"I've just come off a good altitude block [of training], so it'll be interesting to see how that works. I rode Valenciana to get a bit of race pace in my legs and Larciano basically my first real race back. I got off on the right foot, I'm feeling good and so we'll how it goes here."
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