The 26-year-old Brit is back at the top of the three-week race, but he still has a mountain to climb
Mitchelton-Scott are holding back “a naturally aggressive” Simon Yates in his quest to win the Vuelta a España next week in Madrid.
Yates leads the Spanish Grand Tour, but team bosses worry that the 26-year-old Brit could use too much too soon against rivals like Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).
“He’s naturally a very aggressive rider, and we have to hold him back sometimes,” Matt White, team sports director explained.
“The plan at the Giro d’Italia was to take time when we could because we knew we were going to lose a lot of time to Dumoulin and Froome in the time trial, but in the Vuelta’s TT here we are racing different people.
“These guys here will all be very similar, where as we knew we’d lose time in the Giro, so there wasn’t same importance to take time as there was in May.”
Yates struck from the start in the Giro d’Italia this May, building up a lead with three stage wins and bonus seconds. He held the pink jersey for 13 days, and even defended it against Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome. But the effort caused cracks to appear and he slipped away with two days to race.
In Spain, they are spreading his energy across the three weeks. He leads 26 seconds over Quintana’s team-mate Alejandro Valverde, 33 over Quintana and 43 over Lopez. Back at 1-29 minutes, sits Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo).
“Holding him back? Definitely,” said White. “There are moments where he has to take time and test the other guys, but you can see that we are not going out there and putting it all out on the line for stages as we were in the Giro.”
Yates took time in the last two mountain stages in Asturias, winning on Saturday and placing third on Sunday – both time gaining bonus seconds.
“Sometimes,” White added, “the best form of defence is to attack, especially when you are confident in your climbing ability.”
The team enjoyed the Vuelta’s second rest day on Monday ahead of a time trial and more mountain stages. Yates spoke with the press before recceing the 32km time trial course.
“It’s hard to change your style since you have been doing that since you were a child. If you have the legs and the opportunity, you have to take it. It’s very hard to change that mindset and be way more conservative,” Yates said.
“Sometimes I find it more difficult, but here it has been OK and it’s only been in the last couple of days that I’ve opened the taps a bit more.”
White and the team have asked “quite a lot” for Yates to ease off. “At least one point every day. That’s OK because it’s for my own good.
“Every now and then you get a little frustrated because it is what I have done since I was 11. It’s hard to teach a dog new tricks.”