Among the interesting figures jumping off the front in the final kilometres of stage 10 of the Giro d'Italia was Simon Yates. The Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider is sticking around at the race, and so we should expect to see a lot more of the Briton in the coming stages, especially once the Giro heads to the Alps.
Yates escaped off the front, and was joined by Mathieu van der Poel in an unsuccessful move, but one that hinted that the man from Bury will be seeking to force things more in the coming days.
It represents a change in tactics from him and his team, after his general classification ambitions ended on the climb to Blockhaus. Yates, suffering from a knee injury and struggling with the high heat on stage nine, lost over 11 minutes.
The injury came from a crash on stage four to Mount Etna, when Yates struck a kerb after being hit from behind by another rider. There was speculation that his heavily-strapped knee was causing him such problems that he would be forced to quit the Giro on the second rest day, but that has not come to pass.
He is expected to ride the Tour de France as well in July, but it is unlikely that he will target GC there as well after his tilt at the overall at the Giro. If that was the case, one would expect him to have headed home early in order to be at his best for that race.
With the weight of riding for the pink jersey taken off his shoulders, however involuntarily, Yates will now have the freedom to target stage wins later in the race. Of course, he has already won one in this edition, in the time trial around Budapest.
He had won a further four before this year, including three in his thrilling tilt at pink in 2018, which actually saw him end up in 21st place overall. He has the speed and the skill to win on punchy finishes as well as on the days in the mountains, so it would not be a surprise to see him win on multiple occassions.
Yates has had a turbulent relationship with the Giro since his debut in 2018, when he won those stages and led the race for 13 days before conceding it to compatriot Chris Froome. The 2019 and 2020 editions were fruitless for him, but he roared back in 2021 to take a sensational stage win to Alpe di Mera and finally grab an overall podium, finishing third.
His BikeExchange directeur sportif Matt White told VeloNews this week that Yates did not have an injury severe enough to send him home, and that they would now be looking at new objectives.
“The health of our athletes is always the first priority,” White said. “Our medical team would not want to him start if there were any issues.”
“We have to look to different goals. We haven’t got a sprinter here, so we will take it day-by-day, and reassess what we want to do. There is still plenty of Giro left.”
Yates' next chance might come on Thursday's stage 12 to Genoa, if he fancies getting in the breakaway, before there are lots more climbing opportunities in the final week.
His attempt to get away on Tuesday showed that he has not lost the fight yet, and he might be able to return to success rather than disappointment at this Giro.
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