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For the fifth consecutive year, Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) came into the Giro as a favourite to take the pink jersey. “It’s a race that suits me well, it’s a very difficult race with lots of climbing,” he said before the first grand tour of the season got underway.
Unfortunately for the BikeExchange rider, factors outside of his control meant that, suit him as it may, he would once again be forced to wave goodbye to his GC chances at the Giro d’Italia.
The Briton got off to a great start, winning the stage 2 time trial and sitting pretty in second overall, until a crash on stage 4 saw him lose time. A knee injury, presumably picked up the same day, meant that Yates was off the boil for the next GC test, stage 9’s finish on Blockhaus, where he lost 11 minutes, citing heat as another aggravating factor.
With no hope of redeeming his GC standing, Saturday’s stage win on one of the toughest days in the race so far may have seemed something of a consolation to the 29-year-old but for him, it does not make up for his losses on stage 9.
“Not really. I mean, not to put a downer on the day but I came here to win the race,” he told media after his stage 14 win. “For me it’s another stage. I have five already and it’s number six.”
Yates’ Giri have been plagued with issues, beginning with 2018 where the then-26-year-old attacked the first 15 stages of the race with impressive zeal, winning no less than three, and he held on to the GC until stage 19 when he imploded, eventually slipping down to 21st overall. He rallied after the bitter disappointment of the Giro to win the Vuelta a España, and Yates came back for another bite at the Giro cherry in 2019. However, despite learning a lesson in patience, his form was nowhere near the previous season’s.
2020 was a non-starter, known as something of an anomalous race in any case, which got worse when he tested positive for Covid-19 and dropped out after stage seven.
Last year, despite a hamstring injury, Yates managed a stage victory and podium finish, and would have been hoping his now-extensive grand tour experience and current form would propel him two steps up on the podium in 2022. As it happened, he has found himself going back to the drawing board yet again.
The BikeExchange-Jayco leader comes away with what he seems to consider a superfluous stage win, and question marks over his GC future.