Today’s barnstorming Tour of the Alps performance proves Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) should be the out-and-out favourite for the Giro d’Italia next month, not Egan Bernal.
This morning the bookies had the Colombian rider, ex-Tour de France champion, Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) as the most likely to take victory in the Italian Grand Tour, with either Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) or Yates with the second-shortest odds. In the Tirolean alps today, Yates proved the bookies wrong – or at the very least, gave them some serious cause to reconsider that pecking order.
Yates tore away from the race on the western slopes of the Piller Sattel, the second of two ascents of this mountain in today’s stage, before powering on after a hair-raising descent off the mountain to take a beautiful solo victory.
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The next-best rider Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) could do little more than keep the gap to roughly 40 seconds, despite looking by-far-and-away the strongest of the chasing riders. Sivakov’s teammate Egan Bernal, the Giro favourite, pulled out of the Tour of the Alps, opting instead to do altitude work in his home country. Thus far this year he has not shown the same sort of form as he had when he won the Tour de France, and there are lingering questions about the back injury that saw him out of last year’s Tour.
Tour of the Alps Stage 2 Highlights: Simon Yates puts on a show
Yates meanwhile has been quietly building this form since the start of the season, and his performance today was redolent of the fantastically entertaining first two weeks of his Giro d’Italian in 2018. In the run-up to that year’s Giro, Yates famously said that if he was in his rivals' shoes he'd be “shitting myself.”
In the end, Yates fell short of the Giro win, collapsing in the final week after looking every bit the strongest rider in the peloton for the race’s first 17 days.
This year there has been no such show of press conference bravado – so far, that is – but rather a steely focus on the goal at-hand. Tenth at Tirreno in the GC, followed by ninth in Catalunya. These are not the sorts of results to send sports directors or sponsors into paroxysms of joy, but they do speak of a maturity and measuredness to the preparation that was perhaps missing in 2018. And, crucially, all the ‘arrows’ go up.
It’s thought that Yates simply peaked too soon in 2018, burning too many matches in his marauding first fortnight of Il Giro, while the race’s eventual winner Chris Froome (Israel StartUp Nation) was the opposite, looking distinctly second-hand until his magical solo raid on the Colle delle Finestre which simultaneously secured him the maglia rosa and laid waste to Yates’ hopes.
'Superb' - Yates cruises to impressive Stage 2 win in the Alps
Ultimately the road will decide – and Il Giro is famous for throwing up surprises – but on the available evidence, Yates’ incredible form at Tour of the Alps should genuinely have his rivals feeling worried, if not actually, y’know, doing that thing he said.
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