Simon Yates, who spent a fortnight in the race leader’s maglia rosa at last year’s Giro d’Italia, won by Team Sky’s Chris Froome, says he has “unfinished business” at the Grand Tour.
The 26-year-old from Bury will lead his Mitchelton-Scott team at the three-week race, which starts in Bologna on Saturday.
12 months ago, he won three stages in the maglia rosa and went into Stage 19 with a lead of 28 seconds over second-placed Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands and 3 minutes 22 seconds over Froome, who was in fifth place.
The Team Sky rider’s stunning attack on the Colle delle Finestre with 80 kilometres remaining saw him seize the race lead and he was crowned champion of the 101st edition in Rome two days later.
Yates, in difficulty as Froome launched his attack, would finish the race 21st overall, but later in the season took his maiden Grand Tour victory at the Vuelta a Espana.
“I wanted to go back to the Giro, that’s what’s driving me at the moment, and that’s what I have the passion to get out of bed for every morning,” said Yates, who last raced in March at the Volta a Catalunya, where he finished 13th overall.
“I’m approaching the Giro the same way I would do any other race,” he continued. “I am, more or less, always in a leadership role within the team and I really like to try to win every race I start, so for me it’s just business as usual.
“There are many strong rivals, it’s a very packed field. I wouldn’t really like to single out anyone, I think they are all very strong and a lot of them have already won week-long races this year.
“In a way I have unfinished business at the Giro, but I would just like to have another go. We were so close last year so I’m motivated to give it another go and I’m trying to arrive in the best shape possible to try and do that.
“We start directly with a prologue, so we will know how everyone’s form is there. If I can race aggressively, like I would do normally, that’s how I would like to race because that’s what I enjoy but we’ll have to see once we get there.”
It was noticeable during the Vuelta that Yates adopted a more conservative style of racing more suited to the demands of challenging for the overall victory at a three-week Grand Tour rather than the gung-ho attacks he launched at the Giro that ultimately left him spent with three stages remaining.
“I like to race aggressively but you can’t always do that unfortunately and that’s what I really learnt from last season,” he acknowledged. “I will apply those lessons and hopefully come off with the win.”
Matt White, Mitchelton-Scott’s head sport director, said: “You’re only as good as your last win, and our last Grand Tour was a win so naturally we’re going into the Giro as one of the favourites.
“We’re heading to Italy with the aim of finishing off the job this year. That may mean we don’t win as many stages, but we’re looking at the bigger prize. We’re 12 months on from the last edition, we’ve learnt a lot in those 12 months, and our job is to put that to good use across the three weeks of racing.
“We’ve run a very similar template with Simon’s build up again this year, he is in similar shape which means it’s a good place to be starting our journey,” White continued.
“We have had some bad luck with some late changes due to injuries, but it does show that we have some depth in the team to fill those places with some very capable bike riders and I’m certainly very confident that we’re going to be able to support Simon at an incredibly high level with the group that we’ve put together.
“It’s a very experienced composition we have been able to assemble, with Simon being the second youngest in the team, and they share a few Grand Tours caps between them.
“The thing that stands out in the first 12 stages is that there are no major climbs to really test the GC guys, but what it does have is kilometres – there’s a lot of long stages, a lot of stages over 200km in the first half. At the end of the day this will wear people down but because the Giro will be won in the second half, it’s about conserving energy and being efficient as a team in the first half of the race.
“If there’s ever a Giro that you could ride into, this would be this one,” he added. “But in saying that, some of our biggest rivals have shown they are in very good shape already so there’ll be some tests early on, but nothing definitive.”
None of the seven riders who supported at the Vuelta last September, including his twin brother Adam, feature in the Mitchelton-Scott line-up for the Giro d’Italia.
There is plenty of experience in the team, however, including Grand Tour stage winners Eesteban Chaves and Mikel Nieve, plus Jack Bauer, Brent Bookwalter, Luke Durbridge, Chris Juul-Jensen and Lucas Hamilton.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.