When Simon Yates announced shortly before starting his fifth consecutive Giro d’Italia that this would probably be his last appearance before he turned his attentions to trying to win the Tour de France, no one expected that shift from pink to yellow to happen as soon as this very summer. But that is exactly what must happen now.
“I was hopeful of still being able to try and do something, but I’ve been in a lot of [knee] pain since Etna. I’ve been trying to manage it as best as possible. It wasn’t my only problem today. I also suffered with the heat,” Yates said after conceding a hefty 11 minutes on the unforgiving ascent of Blockhaus on Sunday.
“I’ll see what happens now,” he added. “We’ve got the rest day, I’ll see how I pull up from the stage today.”
Tour de France
Yates left out of BikeExchange-Jayco team for Tour de France
But it’s clear that Yates should not take any more chances with his injured knee. He needs to quit the Giro now and rest up ahead of the Tour’s grand depart in Copenhagen on 1st July.
Why continue? The 29-year-old doesn’t need any more Giro stage wins – he’s proved he can do that with five already to his name, including his impressive time trial victory last weekend. Nor does he need the developmental exercise of battling to the end of a Grand Tour after falling well out of contention. He’s already been there, done that and got the pink T-shirt on numerous occasions since his infamous implosion on the Colle delle Finestre on the penultimate day in the mountains in 2018.
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Yates doesn’t need any more morale-boosting bounce-back stage wins, nor does he need another Giro top 10 or podium finish – both of which are already on his palmares. If he’s not going to win it, he’s better off out of it.
What he does need is a healed knee and a proper tilt at taking the one leader’s jerseys that eludes him: the maillot jaune. Sure, he’s not going to win the Tour while two swashbuckling Slovenians are around; but just as he’s worn pink and the Vuelta’s red jersey in his career before, Yates could easily keep the yellow warm before Pog or Rog take it off his shoulders. Now that would be a developmental exercise worth chalking up.
It is clearly a huge setback for Yates to find himself in this predicament again. Since letting Chris Froome through the backdoor four years ago Yates had returned every May with the proverbial “unfinished business” to tie up. His emphatic TT win on the streets of Budapest underlined his form and made him the outright favourite this month – only for an innocuous fall a few days later during the stage to Etna to bring his hopes tumbling down.
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He survived the race’s first summit finish in Stage 4 but he was clearly riding in some discomfort and not to the best of his ability. Of course, it would hardly suit BikeExchange-Jayco in the short run if Yates were to pack his bags now; their Giro team was build entirely around Yates’s push for pink and it’s hard seeing individual success coming from elsewhere. But Matt White is old and experienced enough to look at the bigger picture. It would be a huge call to pull Yates before Stage 10 on Tuesday. But it would, on balance, probably be the right decision.
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A bad day for the Brits in Italy also saw Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) rise one place but drop further behind the GC favourites after he came home the best part of four minutes behind Jai Hindley and the other race favourites. It capped a bad few days for EF who saw Carthy’s fellow Brits Simon Carr and Owain Doull pull out on successive days with illness.
But unlike Yates, Carthy’s 4:22 deficit on the GC is not insurmountable – just look at the example of Frenchman Guillaume Martin of Cofidis, who flew back up the standings on Saturday after getting in the break in Naples, and then followed that with a solid ride on Blockhaus that now sees him in sixth place and within 28 seconds of Juan Pedro Lopez’s pink jersey.
There are enough mountain tests and hilly stages remaining in this Giro to allow for a Carthy return – and his losses on Blockhaus will now give the 27-year-old a little more leeway in getting into a break. And unlike Yates, Carthy has never tasted a stage win on the Giro; that and his not being hampered by an injury are reasons alone for him to battle on and keep his head up ahead of the next phase of the Giro.
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