By Julien Pretot
ORBETELLO, Italy (Reuters) – Simon Yates has an unfinished business at the Giro d’Italia after a spectacular collapse in the finale last year and the Briton is oozing confidence on his return for this year’s race.
In 2018, the Mitchelton-Scott rider spent 13 days with the Maglia Rosa before paying for his efforts in the 19th stage and dropping out of contention, losing more than half an hour in the final Alpine leg.
Since then, the 26-year-old has won the Vuelta, and has been focussing solely on the 2019 Giro.
Yates has thundered that his rivals should be scared of him as he labelled himself the top favourite for the three-week race that will end in Verona on June 2.
“He is confident, he is showing his confidence. Riders these days don’t give too much away but nothing caught people by surprise,” his sports director Matt White told Reuters.
“He is confident and he is happy with where he is at.”
Yates took second place in the opening time trial behind the impressive Primoz Roglic of Slovenia, whom he trails by 19 seconds going into Tuesday’s fourth stage.
Two-time Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali, although he asked Yates to show his rivals more respect, smiled as he welcomed the breath of fresh air from an “over the top” rider.
Yates has matured since cracking on the slope of the Colle delle Finestre, prompting White to hint that his protege would maybe ride more conservatively this time.
“He’s had a good preparation coming into this race, he’s confident, he’s worked towards this for the last 12 months,” said White.
“Last year we had a plan, we were too aggressive and we rectified that plan for the Vuelta and it worked quite well.
“He led a grand tour for two weeks, got he experience of leading a grand tour and winning a grand tour.”
Yates paid dearly to learn that the Giro can be unpredictable, but this year the Corsa Rosa is his only focus.
“His preparations since October-November last year have all been building for this race, even the races he did in the Spring,” said White, who believes the climber has now the maturity to win the world’s second greatest stage race after the Tour de France.
“He is a great leader. It has been a gradual process over the last four years, he’s won stages on grand tours — two on the Vuelta, three on the Giro — and a white jersey — for the best U25 rider on the Tour in 2017.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)