Nobody had considered Simon Yates as a potential winner of the time trial at Paris-Nice, not even the Briton himself, who admitted to being wholly surprised with his victory in the 25.5-kilometre test around the small town of Barbentane, just south of Avignon.
“It was my first time trial win ever at any level. I wasn’t expecting it at all, especially given the course, which I thought was one for the specialists,” said Yates.
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“I came here for the general classification and looking to win some stages along the way, but of course my hopes for GC went in the crosswinds at the beginning – it’s not a secret that I don’t like riding in crosswinds. They’re very difficult conditions for me and, unfortunately, I lost time,” the Mitchelton-Scott rider said when asked about his original goals for Paris-Nice.
“Fortunately, there are still opportunities to win stages, although I didn’t expect today to be one of those opportunities. So this win’s a real bonus, and now I’m really looking forward to the weekend ahead.”
Asked if he had his eye on any particular stage of the three remaining, Yates picked out Saturday’s stage seven summit finish on the Col de Turini.
“We all know that the final two stages are very difficult. I don’t know Saturday’s stage so well, but we’ll see who’s in the breakaway and how it plays out. I don’t think I’d like to be in the breakaway unless it’s very large,” he explained.
“I’d prefer to go mano a mano with some of the stronger guys, some of whom are likely rivals at the Giro. I’d like to see where I am at the minute compared to those guys. If I’m not so good up against them, that’s not a problem as there’s still a long way to go before the Giro, which is my main objective of the year.”
Having made headlines recently after telling Spanish website Ciclo21.com that, “I’m not interested in the Tour,” Yates was also asked about a future return to the Tour de France.
“For the moment my objective is the Giro. In the future, I’m sure I’ll return to the Tour, but at the moment that’s not what I want to try to do. I want to go to the Giro and I want to try to win.
“I guess in a little way it’s a case of unfinished business, but it’s more the fact that I like to have a goal, something that gets me out of bed in the morning, and the Giro is doing that for me at the moment. After last year I have a great passion for the race and I’d like to return and try to win it.”
Yates also offered support to team-mate Esteban Chaves, who is steadily working his way back to full racing fitness after being affected by mononucleosis last season.
“Esteban is looking good,” Yates said of the Colombian, who finished 14th in the time trial. “He’s very happy to be back racing. But we need to let him come back slowly and not apply any pressure. If that happens, I’m sure we’ll see the best of him again.”