The idea that the newer strains of Covid are milder did not reach Adam Yates. The Ineos Grenadiers rider suffered badly with his virus, like many have done before, not bouncing back simply like some of his infected peers in the peloton.
As a result, the 29-year-old will approach the Tour de France on Friday with some reservations about his form. He might have recovered from it, but he also missed a crucial week of training ahead of this Tour. He was forced to withdraw from the Tour de Suisse, a race that was eventually won by his teammate - and rival for the yellow jersey - Geraint Thomas.
"I’m much better now obviously," Yates told the press on Wednesday, with a laugh. "I had three or four days, quite bad to be honest. Some guys get a little tickle in their throat, but I had proper fever and chills. I missed the real crucial stages in Suisse. Not ideal, but luckily for me I get fit quite quickly. I didn’t lose too much. Here we are, and we will find out in the TT if I’m good enough."
Beside him, co-leader Dani Martínez used the antibacterial gel in front of him on the desk, as if he was guarding from the virus at that moment.
Unlike other teams, Ineos did their press conference in person, but this was a fully masked-up affair, with restrictions on numbers. The spectre of Covid hangs over this race, with Matteo Trentin of UAE Team Emirates the latest to be forced out of the race; at least Yates has already been through his bout of it.
He will be on the start line with other recent Covid patients like Stefan Küng and Thibaut Pinot of Groupama-FDJ. These guys might be in the best shape for the next few weeks, in fact.
The Covid protocols have been changed ahead of this Friday, with the Tour's organisers no longer obliged to kick out teams that have two or more riders that test positive for the virus.
"I think the main thing is if two riders go positive the whole team can go on," Thomas said. "Teams can be less stressed now. It’s good that that’s gone. I’m pretty relaxed about it now. It is what it is, it’s the world we’re living in now. It seems a lot less deadly than it was a couple of years ago."
As for Yates' form, it was posed to the man from Bury that he is won of the only riders to have gone toe-to-toe with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), the overwhelming favourite of the race, this year. That was at the UAE Tour back in February, where Pogačar triumphed, but Yates ran him close.
"UAE is a long time ago now, feels like it now anyway," he said. "Me and Pogo had some good battles there. It’s always a bit different there, pan flat run into the finish. I just hope to be at my best. I’ve not had the best of luck with Covid, missed out on a few key sessions."
Time trialling might be crucial this year, with 53km of racing against the clock this year. This is something Yates has been working on.
"This year I’ve done pretty well in TTs really," he explained. "Guys my size, less than 60 kilos, it's not easy to go well in a TT. I do a lot, two or three sessions every week. There’s not much more I can do, just get my head down and see what I can do. We’ll give it a shot on Friday we will see. I do the same power on the climbs as I do on the TT."
Covid free, Yates will now be looking for good luck for the next three weeks.
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