The Team BikeExchange rider finished third overall at the Giro d’Italia and knows the near impossibility of targeting the general classification in both Grand Tours, especially with the chance to win a gold medal coming just six days after the Tour reaches Paris.
“I have absolutely no ambition for GC and I’m just targeting stages," he said during the Team BikeExchange video press conference at the Tour de France Grand Départ in Brest.
“It’s difficult to do both the Giro and the Tour GC, it takes a mental and physical effort. That’s no big secret. I don’t think I’d come out physically able to do a job in Tokyo if I do, and the Olympic Games are an important goal for me."
“If I do the full three weeks for GC, there’s not enough time to recover and back it up at the Olympics. It’s better to target stages, go all in, take days off and then do it all again. That replicates a one-day race formula for the Olympics.”
Yates is part of the four-rider Great Britain team headed to Tokyo, along with Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Simon's twin brother Adam.
He intends to finish the Tour de France and then head to Toyko with many of his rivals, who will follow a similar programme, with little time for recovery and adaption to the travel, time zones and humidity of Japan in late July.
“The games are going to be difficult due to the time difference and the heat difference. But most guys are in the same boat and most are coming from the Tour de France,” Yates said, hoping his personal Tour strategy will give him the best compromise solution for Tokyo.
“We’re in the same place, we’re on the same flight at the same time and have to deal with it the best way possible.”
Yates got a block of recovery in early, enjoying a week’s holiday in Sardinia after the demands of the Giro d’Italia. He has since spent two weeks training at altitude at his home in Andorra.
Michael Matthews will lead Team BikeExchange in the opening hilly stage finishes in Brittany, while Lucas Hamilton is the BikeExchange protected rider for the overall classification. That allows Yates to save himself for the mountain stages in the Alps and Pyrenees.
“Lucas has proved his consistency in GC and deserves a chance to lead the team in Tour. I had that experience and you have to start somewhere, so we’ll support him,” Yates explained. “I think we have everything covered to give it a good shot.
“I felt quite good after the Giro and hope for a good Tour. On my day, I could do a ride on stages 1 and 2, [now] we have other riders who can do that. There's a lot of opportunities for me from stage 8 onwards.”
The stage with the double assault of Mount Ventoux is on stage 11 and is on Yates’ mountain hit list.
“I’ve never actually raced Mount Ventoux, we maybe raced part of it during Paris-Nice, but I’ve never been over the summit,” Yates said. “It’d be great to win that one but there are others too. There’s the stage to Andorra before the second rest day that is close to where I live, so that’d be a great one to win.”
Yates’ 2020 season was derailed by a COVID-19 coronavirus infection during the Giro d’Italia. He has made a full recovery and is used to the strict COVID-19 medical protocols that riders have to respect to limit contagion in their team and race bubbles.
“We did as much as we could not to get infected before so nothing changed. It all feels normal now. We've been doing it for a year and half now, so it’s normal to get tested before races and at races, to wear a mask, et cetera. We have separate dining rooms and other things, it’s difficult to do more.
“It's a risk every day, we’re trying to do as much as we can. If there are fans not doing that, we can’t control that. We're just trying to do the best we can.
“Not much more we can do. A lot of people are getting vaccinated so hopefully we’ll be back to normal soon. But if we have to carry on like this for a few more years, then so be it.”
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