Yates finished with Orica-GreenEdge 25 seconds behind winners BMC Racing in the opening team time trial in Lido di Camaiore today. Back at the team bus, he explained that he has been working for a WorldTour win after making steady steps in his first two years as a professional.
“This has always been my first big goal of the season,” the 23-year-old from Bury said. “In training, I had some of the best power of my life a couple of weeks ago.
“I think I showed over the last two years that I can be up there when I’m going good. Last year, I won my first WorldTour race in San Sebastián, so why not go one step more?”
Yates climbed with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) last year on the main summit finish and moved to sixth overall. He slipped to ninth in the final day’s individual time trial.
He went on to debut in the Tour de France and of course, win the Clásica San Sebastián one-day classic in Spain. To prepare for 2016, the Australian team worked with Yates over the winter to improve his time trialling for stage races like Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour.
“The power’s never been a problem for me, it’s always been the breathing on the time trial bike, and I struggle quite a bit. I like to get out of my saddle a lot when I climb, and you can’t when you are on your time trial bike because you go so much slower. I’m just getting used to producing the power in that position,” Yates said.
“Improvements? Yeah. Just whether I can do that at the end of six days of hard racing, we’ll see. I’ll give it a shot.”
As with recent years, Tirreno-Adriatico ends with a flat 10.05-kilometre time trial on Italy’s east coast in San Benedetto del Tronto. Over the next five days, the race crosses Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo and Marche – terrain where Yates could take an advantage.
The stage tomorrow climbs a short 18 per cent hill three kilometres before the finish in Pomarance and Sunday’s queen stage climbs 10 kilometres to reach Monte San Vicino.
Watch: Yates vs Yates
Yates and Orica’s other classification rider, Colombian Esteban Chaves already previewed the finish in Pomarance. Yates has never climbed San Vicino in the Apennine Mountains range, but poured over the maps with his team directors. Without the pure climbers like Quintana, he said that his rivals will probably be Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
He stopped pedalling on his bike to think about what he wants from his third year as a professional.
“Every year we try to go one step higher,” he said. “In the first year, I already won the Tour of Turkey, then the year after San Sebastián, a WorldTour race. It keeps progressing from there. Every year, we try to go one step higher and keep climbing the ladder.”