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Simon Yates falls ill at Volta a Catalunya on rough day for BikeExchange-Jayco

Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2022 - 101st Edition - 3rd stage Perpinya - La Molina 161 km - 23/03/2022 - Simon Yates (GBR - Team BikeExchange - Jayco) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2022
Simon Yates rides in front of BikeExchange-Jayco teammate Michael Matthews on stage 3 at Volta a Catalunya (Image credit: Sprint Cycling Agency)

After their stunning start to the Volta a Catalunya, things turned sharply for the worse for Team BikeExchange-Jayco on stage 3 of the race when GC leader Simon Yates fell ill and lost all hope of victory in the GC battle, while stage 1 winner Michael Matthews had to abandon.

Seven kilometres from the summit of La Molina, Yates abruptly sat up and took no part in the final surge for the line. He finally finished more than 10 minutes down. A decision on whether Yates will start on stage four will be taken on Thursday morning.

Team sources later told Cyclingnews, “Simon was not feeling well today - he had a mild non-covid related illness after Paris-Nice and came here still recovering from it, and today he just didn't feel great on the bike.”

For many a standout performance for Simon Yates in Paris-Nice, claiming second overall and the final stage at Col d’Eze, had propelled the Briton into the position of top favourite at the Volta a Catalunya.

However, even prior to Wednesday’s tough day, Yates had already suffered a couple of setbacks on stage 2 when he was caught up and fell in a crash in the fraught, echelon-filled last 20 kilometres. 

A sustained pursuit by his squad to try and bring him back to the front group failed to work out completely and Yates lost 33 seconds to several other favourites.

That was not disastrous in itself in GC times, even if the damage was further compounded when Yates and two other teammates, Damien Howson and Michael Hepburn, each received a 20-second penalty for, as per the UCI communique released late on Tuesday,  ‘Sheltering behind or taking advantage of the slipstream of a vehicle.’

Matthews' abandon came after he fell ill midway through the extremely tough stage, which featured three first-category climbs.

“Michael wasn’t feeling well during the stage and after getting sick we decided it was better for him to stop,” sports director Gene Bates stated on the team’s website.

Although Team BikeExchange-Jayco may now be on the back foot in the rest of the Volta, it can’t or shouldn't overshadow what has been a memorably successful start to the race for the team.

The Australian WorldTour squad dominated the first two days of racing, courtesy of back-to-back stage wins with Matthews and Kaden Groves on Monday and Tuesday, the latter securing his first WorldTour win of his career.

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.