Giro d’Italia: Simon Yates eyes aggressive Etna stage and danger from the break

‘We are still at the beginning of the Giro with minimal gaps, but I still expect an aggressive race,’ says Giro d'Italia contender.

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Practice makes perfect for Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) with the Giro d’Italia contender using the first rest day of this year’s race to recon the Mount Etna climb ahead of stage 4.

The ascent marks the first mountain top finish of this year’s race and an expected change in the maglia rosa and the overall standings are expected with Mathieu van der Poel likely to relinquish his current possession of the pink jersey.

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Yates, thanks to his stunning stage 2 time trial win, is currently second overall and in line to move into pink but there are a host of potential rivals within striking distance.

On Monday the British climber and the rest of the Giro circus traveled from Budapest to Sicily and after an early departure, there was time for Yates to recon the final climb. Although Etna has featured in the Giro d’Italia regularly, this year’s ascent is slightly different from the one used in 2018.

“It was a busy day; I woke up early, flew to Etna directly from the airport. Together with Lucas Hamilton, we did the whole climb, first in dry conditions and in the last part under the rain. It’s a climb that I know well because we did it almost all on the same route at the 2018 Giro and then during a training camp in 2020,” Yates said Monday.

“We decided to do it again today because it is useful to refresh your memory. The climb is challenging with the first part very regular and a very demanding central part.”

While Yates holds a great hand going into the all-important stage, it’s also fair to say that he faces a number of challenges and important questions. First and foremost, he will have to be incredibly selective in terms of which of his potential rivals he marks. He could choose to attack in a bid to draw out his rivals, too, but that could open him up to a counterattack.

There’s also the chance that Yates rides into the maglia rosa, and while that would be welcome from a confidence and publicity standpoint for the team, it would leave BikeExchange with the potential responsibility of controlling the race until they could hand the jersey over to a non-threatening rider from another team.

An ideal situation for Yates would be to see a break take the stage and perhaps the jersey, while he extends his time gaps on his key rivals.

“We are still at the beginning of the Giro with minimal gaps, but I still expect an aggressive race also because it’s also the first climb of this Giro. In addition to the weather conditions, I expect to see if the transfer from Hungary and the rest day can affect the performance of the best. It will be necessary to be careful of some breakaway of the overall riders.”

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