Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) says that he is happy to be back racing after serving a suspension and missing the Tour de France. On Saturday, he began the three-week Vuelta a España to support Colombian Esteban Chaves in the overall classification.
Yates, twin brother of Adam Yates, took a banned asthma medication during the Paris-Nice stage race in March. As a result, he had to stop racing for four months. He already restarted racing, but the Vuelta a España is his first big test after his suspension.
“There’s nothing I could do about that,” 24-year-old Yates told Cycling Weekly. “It is me who takes the shit at the end of the day, but in a way, it’s not my mistake. I’m just happy to be back racing. And it’s really in the past now.”
Yates was due to lead the Australian WorldTour team in what would have been his third at the Tour de France. Instead, Adam Yates took over and led the team to finish fourth overall and win the young rider classification.
Working in his favour, however, Yates is starting the Vuelta fresh after a series of one-day races and shorter stage races. After returning in the Tour of Poland, he won the Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika. Two weeks ago, he placed fourth overall in the Vuelta a Burgos.
“I’ve prepared very well. I’ve been training pretty well for this. I’ve had good preparation for the other races, where I’ve been feeling good,” Yates said.
“Normally this time of year, I’m pretty tired after the Tour de France. Now, I’ve had one-day races and it actually served me pretty well. Actually, I feel good. I hope that will play into my hands.”
Unlike in the Tour de France, the team has an experienced Grand Tour leader with Esteban Chaves. The 26-year-old finished second overall in the Giro d’Italia behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) this May and last year, won two stages and placed fifth overall in the Vuelta a España.
“That is the reason I’m here, for Esteban. Obviously, if there is an opportunity for me, I will take it with both hands, but we will have to see how that goes. That will play out on the road more than anything. He’s proved himself twice before already in Grand Tours, it’s not like, ‘will he or won’t he be ready?’ He’s going to be ready and I’m going to support him.”
The team, however, will look after Yates in the classification in case something should happen to Chaves.
“I’m not going to lose time on purpose, but honestly, I am here for Esteban not for myself,” Yates explained.
“If that situation occurs where he’s not there then I will try to step up, but I think he is going to be fine and we are just going to have to see on the road.”