On paper, last week would have looked like a fairly pivotal moment in Simon Yates’ 2020 yet, for now, not much has changed.
Cycling restrictions were partially lifted in Andorra, where he lives, while the UCI released their re-jigged 2020 calendar. However, he doesn’t yet know which races he’ll be riding and is also yet to take advantage of being able to ride outside once again.
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“It’s all up in the air at the minute and I’ve not had the discussion with Matt White [Mitchelton-Scott sporting director] and the team to really lay out the rest of the year now,” Yates told a roundtable with the media.
“I’m yet to go outside just because for one reason or another. We have one stretch of road, which is the only one we’re allowed to ride and only for two hours. So it’s still quite heavily restricted. The sport minister is speaking to the government at the moment and maybe from next week we can do a little bit more, but for now the restrictions will stay in place. But like I said before, I’m still inside of the minute and I’m happy just cruising around on Zwift.”
As for Zwift, Yates says he isn’t a newcomer to the platform but the racing side of it is something he hasn’t done before.
“I’ve used Zwift quite a lot anyway just for riding but never really got involved with the races and they’re tough. Really tough and very intense and you have to go there ready to race otherwise you’ll be out the back really pretty quick. It’s been a good distraction from not being able to race properly outside.”
While Yates says he’s been making the most of his time at home, a rarity in the middle of the season to spend time with his girlfriend, it has been the mental rather than physical side of maintaining form that has been tougher.
“I think for me personally, it’s been more mentally [tough] just not having a goal. We didn’t have a calendar until a few days ago and so that was the hardest thing, not knowing when we would come back and race.
“Keeping the physical condition has actually been quite easy. Riding on the home trainer is hard work, it’s definitely much more intense than riding outside on the road, so the fitness is good. I’m just looking forward to having a goal and getting stuck into some training,” Yates said.
When the new calendar does, hopefully, come around, Yates thinks it will be even more intense and stressful than usual.
“Normally, the Grand Tours are extremely physical on their own. For example, when I would do normally a Giro and Vuelta programme you have months to recover before you do the next one but here we’re going to be back-to-back almost, so it could have a big effect. I think it really depends on what the other riders have been doing. Some guys don’t enjoy riding inside on the home trainer, which could affect them. I think for me personally, I think I’ll be okay.”
And how hard a balancing act will this be for teams?
“I think it depends on which team it is really. We’re quite a small team, we’re in the 20s in terms of the number of riders, so to spread that across so many races at the same time it’s going be quite challenging.
“Some of the other squads might have close to 30 riders, so it might be a bit easier to spread them out. I think the hardest thing is actually going to be for the staff to really be able to organise these races. If there are three races on the same day it’s almost impossible for the staff to be where they need to be, let alone the riders. It’s going to be a very challenging part of the year.”
The 27-year-old is out of contract with Mitchelton-Scott at the end of the year, the team he’s been with since he first turned pro in 2014, but is unphased amidst all the other chaos within the sport and the world at the minute.
“Of course, it’s always nice to have security with a contract but I think everyone’s going through the same thing at the minute. There are so many teams having budget cuts anyway and salary cuts or whatever. So it’s really just an unprecedented time that we’re living through at a minute. So I don’t know what’s gonna happen next year with regards to contracts and stuff like that but I think we should just all concentrate on racing first and then we can start to think about next year already.”
Yates had originally planned to target the Olympic road race, hoping the mountainous terrain could deliver him gold, hoping to first race the Giro d’Italia and then prepare properly for Tokyo. Forced to wait another year, Yates is still focused on what he describes as one of the biggest goals of his career.
“It’s really one of my main goals, not just for the year but for my whole career. I really have a lot of passion for that. That’s what I grew up, wanting to be Olympic champion. So the passion is still there but now we have to wait another year to really have a crack.”