Giro d’Italia contender Simon Yates is set to test his form for the upcoming Grand Tour at the Vuelta Asturias, a three-day event in northern Spain starting on Friday.
Third overall last year in Milan and tipped as one of the key favourites for victory in this year’s very mountainous race, Yates heads to Asturias after a high altitude training camp and flanked by a number of teammates also due to take part in the Giro.
“Asturias is the last challenge before the start of the Giro in Hungary. Compared to the previous year, I wanted to change my racing calendar, and these three stages will help me refine my preparation,” Yates said in a BikeExchange-Jayco press release.
“A few days ago, we concluded the training camp in Andorra, we worked hard, and I think it went well. It will be a good opportunity to test the legs and tactics.”
Ranked 2.1 and one of the most venerable Spanish stage races with its first edition dating from way back in 1925, the Vuelta Asturias opens up on Friday with a hilly stage between regional capital Oviedo and the mining town of Pola de Lena. Stage two is unquestionably the toughest, with an ascent of the notoriously difficult Alto de Acebo on a 202 kilometre day of racing. Asturias concludes with a short punchy stage back to Oviedo on Sunday May 1st, just five days before the Giro start.
Rebranded as the Vuelta Asturias Julio Alvarez Mendo - to give the event its full, rarely used name - as a tribute to its longstanding race director who died in 2008, Asturias has proved an excellent testing ground for Giro d’Italia challengers in recent years.
In 2017, Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) won there before finishing second in the Giro d’Italia, while in 2018 and 2019, Asturias was won by Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) when with Movistar, prior to taking fourth in the Giro four years ago and winning it outright in 2019. It was also a breakthrough win for Giro contender Hugh Carthy (EF-EasyPost) back in 2016 when racing with Caja Rural-Seguros RGA and was taken in 2015 by now retired Basque climbing star Igor Anton, winner one year on the ultra-hard Zoncolan in the Giro.
Yates was last seen in race action at the Volta a Catalunya, where BikeExchange Jayco notched up back-to-back stage wins with Michael Matthews and Kaden Groves, but Yates himself had to abandon due to sickness. Prior to that Yates took second at Paris-Nice with a major display of climbing power on the last day. He has never ridden Asturias before, but this year with only one other WorldTour team, Movistar, on the starting grid, the British racer is the top favourite in Asturias.
“The plan for us at Vuelta Asturias is a simple one: it is to win,” added sports director Matt White.. “We are taking the vast majority of our Giro d’Italia team, it’s like a dress rehearsal before our main goal of this spring.
“Last year we did the same at the Tour of Alps but this season we did things a little bit differently. But we are going to this race and afterwards to the Giro with the same mentality.”
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