The second Jumbo-Visma podium sweep of the week will dominate the headlines, but Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) quietly positioned himself as the chief challenger to their hegemony at Paris-Nice with a fine 5th place in the stage 4 time trial to Montluçon.
As the Race to the Sun heads for more rugged terrain in the coming days, Yates lies fourth overall, 49 seconds behind yellow jersey Wout van Aert and 39 seconds off favourite Primož Roglič.
Indeed, Yates even had the quickest time at the intermediate checkpoint in Wednesday’s stage, two seconds clear of Van Aert, but he faded slightly over the latter part of the course, which finished with the kick up the Côte de la Rue Buffon.
Three years ago, Yates surprisingly won the 25-kilometre time trial in Barbentane at Paris-Nice. This time out, he had to settle for fifth at 11 seconds, but he declared himself satisfied with his display across the 13.4-kilometre test.
"That's how you had the pace it, the harder climb was the first one, the first little drag there was where the difference was made really," Yates told reporters of his fast start.
"On the downhills you don't make up that much, although maybe the bigger guys gain a bit more than me because of the weight advantage. From that point on, it was just full gas to the line.
"I'm pretty happy with that, obviously. It's the best TT I've done for a while and we'll see what the rest of the race has to say now."
Yates will hope Wednesday's display marks the beginning of a return to form against the watch. His last top 10 finish in a time trial came on the opening day of the 2019 Giro d'Italia in Bologna, when he placed second beyond Roglič on the Colle San Luca.
The previous season, he delivered two strong time trial showings at the Giro and he defended the red jersey in the final week time trial at the Vuelta a España.
"Sometimes I'll do good numbers and finish last, sometimes I'll do bad numbers and finish quite high up," said Yates. "I think a lot of it is just about pacing and holding a good aero position. That's what a lot of these specialists are good at.
"But once you get two or three weeks into a Grand Tour, it's also different. You're not fresh anymore, you can't do the same power – or at least I can't because I'm tired – but maybe the bigger guys can."
Yates has unfinished business with Paris-Nice, having placed second overall in 2018, when he lost the yellow jersey to Marc Soler by four seconds on a breathless final day of racing.
His overarching objective in 2022 is the Giro, however, and he explained that he had opted for Paris-Nice rather than Tirreno-Adriatico with the corsa rosa's two short, rolling time trials in mind.
"That's one of the reasons why I wanted to come here instead of Tirreno," Yates said.
"It's a bit more of a lumpy time trial here, whereas in Tirreno it was out-and-back, in a sort of British '10' style, and it’s hard for me to really test myself there. You're just doing 400 watts and that's it. Here you really have to pace it and judge it on the corners as well."
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.