Upbeat Simon Yates 'chomping at the bit' for Giro d'Italia debut

Four years after racing his first Tour de France and two years after his first Vuelta a España, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) will start to complete his Grand Tour 'set' with a debut in the Giro d'Italia on Friday. But as the 25-year-old tells Cyclingnews, racing in Italy will be more of a voyage in the dark than some might think.

"I've barely raced there in the past, I know almost nothing about it. I've done a few one-day races in Italy, I've never done any stage races there. It's a completely different experience," he told Cyclingnews.

"I watch the Giro every year on TV, it's a very exciting race, a lot of passion from the race, with a great history behind it. And I've spoken to Adam about the Giro, too."

His twin brother was in the best young rider's jersey and third overall when he crashed along with Team Sky's Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa on the stage to Blockhaus, but still finished in the top 10 overall.

"But each race is different. Of course, he's given me some advice, but that advice doesn't mean so much when you've done five hours and several passes and are on the limit. He can't ride the bike for me - unfortunately!"

Yates has done just one reconnaissance of stage 18 to Pratonevoso - but is phlegmatic about the consequences. "Ten kilometres at ten percent is the same wherever you are," he reasons, and it's difficult to argue with that.

On the plus side, limited prior knowledge has not proved a problem for the Lancashire-born racer in the past in Grand Tours. In his debut in the Vuelta a España in 2016, Yates racked up a stage win in the first week on one of the toughest stages of the entire race, as well as a sixth place overall in Madrid. He is under no pressure to produce a result, either, given his season so far has included a second place and stage win in Paris-Nice, as well as a stage win at Montjuic and fourth place overall in the Volta a Catalunya. So it'll be a question of seeing how it goes, finding his feet, and taking it from there.

"I had a bit of recovery time after the race, and then I went straight back up to Andorra, where I live, and I've been there since then," Yates told Cyclingnews. "The weather was really, really bad for two weeks, but I managed to get the work done."

Asked about whether he has been hitting his power output targets during training, Yates says he has limited faith in the whole concept because in the past he has "been really good in training and then creeping in races."

"So I don't like to do tests as such, [because] it's very different to do something on a one-off climb when you're fresh and not tired, than after six hours and ten stages into a race. I have done that in the past, this time I didn't, but the important thing is that the feelings are really great. So I feel good and I'm happy in my head as well."

As for how he and co-leader Esteban Chaves plan to tackle the race as a two-hander, Yates says "we work really well together, we'll take the tactics on the day by day. We have cards to play."

Prior to the mountains when he tackles Friday's stage opener, Yates says that although his form is good, he is concerned about the potential effects of Israel's very hot weather. Like everybody else, it has taken him aback a little.

"I wasn't expecting the heat for the first few days. Like I said, the weather in Andorra has been very poor, I've been training in zero degrees for quite a long time.

"Besides a couple of days sun, it's been five degrees at most. Here there's 30 degrees difference. It's a very extreme change, and that's what I'm a bit worried about."

As for the time trial, "it looks a bit harder than I would have expected, so theoretically I should lose less time on the fast guys, Froomey and Tom [Dumoulin - Team Sunweb], these guys."

As for what kind of target he might have in the Giro d'Italia, Yates refuses to put a placing or specific objective on it, saying "we'll wait until we get to the Etna." - in other words, the first big summit finish of the race. "I'm just keen to get started now, like I said I've been up in Andorra for ages and I'm really champing at the bit."

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Alasdair Fotheringham

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.