Simon Yates added a day of vital Giro d’Italia reconnaissance to his schedule after winning the Tour of the Alps, riding the final kilometres of stage 17 of the Corsa Rosa to the mountain finish of Sega di Ala north of Verona.
Yates secured overall victory at the Tour of the Alps on Friday after a controlled ride by his BikeExchange team on the final stage to Riva del Garda. Yates set up victory with a dominant performance on the key mountain stages that automatically confirmed his form for the rapidly approaching Giro d’Italia.
He won stage 2 to Feichten im Kaunertal in southern Austria after dropping overall rivals Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) on the final climb. He then extended his lead by attacking on the key climb of the fourth stage to Pieve di Bono in Italy and holding on the coat-tails of fast descender Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious). Yates beat Bilbao by 58 seconds, with Vlasov third at 1:06 in the final overall standings.
His performance and the final results sparked suggestions that Yates has perhaps peaked too early, with the key mountain stage of the Giro d’Italia still a month away.
“Is it too soon for Simon to be going so good? I don’t agree,” BikeExchange's Matt White, senior directeur sportif, told Cyclingnews.
“He’s in a good place for sure but he and the coaches know where the Giro sits on the calendar, and the Tour of the Alps is all part of getting ready. I think winning the Tour of the Alps is like winning the Dauphiné before the Tour de France. It gives everyone a morale boost and shows we’re on track. It also helped bring the team together and amalgamate everyone behind winning the Giro with Simon.”
Yates stayed in Italy with three teammates and they used a recovery ride to check out the final two climbs of the upcoming stage 17, climbing the Passo San Valentino and the uphill finish of Sega di Ala. Yates and BikeExchange have already studied other key stages of the Giro d’Italia, and Cyclingnews understands the British rider will travel to Italy early next week to ride the Montalcino dirt road stage before travelling on to Turin for the Grand Partenza and the start of the Giro on Saturday, May 8.
Yates has prepared meticulously for the Giro d’Italia this year after being forced out of the race in 2020 as a result of catching the COVID-19 coronavirus. In 2018, he lead the race for 13 days only to crack and lose the race to Chris Froome, who attacked alone on the Colle delle Finestre and went to win in Rome.
The Sega di Ala climb was scaled in the 2013 Giro del Trentino, with Vincenzo Nibali winning the stage and the overall classification before going on to also win the Giro d’Italia. It is part of the '23 great climbs of Trentino' list that includes the other legendary climbs of the Trentino region, which have been used in races or are spectacular to ride.
The Sega di Ala is 11.4km long and climbs 1100 metres of altitude at an average gradient of 10.5 per cent. A 1.8km section climbs at 18 per cent. It is one of five mountaintop finishes in this year’s Giro d’Italia.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect Sega di Ala to be this tough,” Yates admitted after his reconnaissance ride.
“There are very steep sections, it’s a climb that can make a difference. The previous ascent to San Valentino is also to be handled carefully, and it’s going to weigh on the legs as we get to the finale.
“I am very happy to have taken this chance and see the course in person, as this might prove crucial for the outcome of the 2021 Giro.”
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