“I felt I was close last year, but ran out of gas,” said Simon Yates about last year’s Giro d’Italia. Photo: Daniel dal Zennaro/EPA

PARIS – For Simon Yates, the Giro d’Italia, which starts in Bologna on May 11, is unfinished business.

“I’m going back to try to finish it,” the British rider told AFP on Tuesday from Andorra, where he lives and works.

Last season finished with a breakthrough victory in the Tour of Spain in September. But that followed a spectacular collapse in the Giro in May.

Yates had built a lead of almost a minute with four days to go. Then the race returned to the mountains for three stages. 

He faltered on the first, crumbled on the second and faded on the third to finish 21st, more than an hour-and-a quarter behind winner Chris Froome.

“I felt I was close last year, but ran out of gas,” he said.

In the run-up to this year’s race, his Mitchelton-Scott team tweeted a photo of Yates on the ground still wearing the leader’s pink jersey at the close of one of the stages that ended his Giro hopes. 

“I’ve been working towards this all year,” Yates said.

Yates and Mitchelton-Scott did not falter in Spain. “It came together beautifully,” Yates said. We had perfect tactics.”

He said that winning his first grand tour was one of his long-term objectives. “I’ve been targeting races.”

The Giro could be his second. This week Bradley Wiggins, a former Tour de France winner, joined the chorus tipping his fellow Englishman to win it.

“Only so many guys in the field have won a grand tour, and I’m one,” said Yates. “So, it’s normal to go in as a favourite.”

He said he was not looking past the race, which ends in Verona on June 2. “This is the goal. This is my season. After this, I don’t have a plan. I’m not entered in any races.”

Yates and his twin Adam, who also rides for Mitchelton-Scott but is not going to the Giro, turn 27 in August, an age, according to cycling lore when riders peak. He said he doesn’t feel that it’s now or never.

“I’ve been making steady progress,” Yates said. “I don’t feel I’m slowing down.”

This year’s Giro contains three time trials, a strength of the two previous winners Froome and Tom Dumoulin. But two of those time trials finish uphill.

“Normally three time trials would not be a great race for me,” Yates said. “But there’s some climbing and they are very technical, and that suits me.”

“It’s a very strong field. A lot of them have won races this season and I haven’t. When we get there, we’ll see who is in great shape.”

Yates said he is happy with his training. “It’s slowly coming together. The pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place,” he said.

“The season’s gone really well. The last bloc of training has gone really well with no mistakes.”

What’s left, he said, is fine-tuning. 

“The bulk of the work done. Maybe drop a little weight to my racing weight.”

Yates said he has not scouted the course. “I’m not a big believer in doing recon, especially in the Giro,” he said. “It doesn’t fit well into our calendar. If you go early, the peaks are snow-covered, and if you go late, it interferes with preparation.

“With the tech, I can watch videos and we have the course profiles in minute detail.”

AFP