Simon Yates will be lining up for a fifth Giro d’Italia with his name prominent amongst the list of favourites and a BikeExchange-Jayco squad squarely focussed on supporting his GC challenge, but is not yet willing to pin a target on the maglia rosa.
Yates has long known all too well how unpredictable the race can be – having led the GC for 13 stages in 2018 before handing off the top spot and plunging down the ranks on the third last day – but he held firm in the last stages of the 2021 Giro d’Italia, securing a position on the final overall podium in Milan with third.
“I still have memories of the great celebrations on the podium in Milan last year, and it wouldn’t be bad to re-live the same emotions again,” said Yates in a team statement. ”From the start in Hungary to the last stage in Verona on the 29th of May, the road will be long and tough, but I’m ready and I will have some great teammates with me.”
To protect Yates along the way Michael Hepburn will be lining up as road captain at his seventh Giro d’Italia along with Chris Juul-Jensen and Australian Callum Scotson. All three riders were alongside Yates when he came third in 2021.
US and Italian time trial champions, Lawson Craddock and Matteo Sobrero will also be part of the team, while Damien Howson and Lucas Hamilton – who is returning to racing after a crash over the barrier on stage 5 of Itzulia Basque Country at the start of April – are the riders earmarked for climbing support.
“The Giro d’Italia has been a big, big goal for the team over last few years and this year is no different,” Head Sport Director Matthew White said in a statement. “We have a really good squad with a lot of experience in Grand Tours and we will go into the Giro as one of the favourites for the race. It is a challenge we are looking forward to.”
Yates, who has fine tuned his preparation over the years, started this season with fifth at the Ruta del Sol, then second at Paris-Nice before falling ill at Volta a Catalunya after the third stage. On recovery, it was onto altitude training. The three-stage Vuelta Asturias was then the last pre-Giro test of race form, with the 29-year-old having one tough day in the heat mid-race, bookended by two solo wins.
“Simon is coming off Vuelta Asturias and it was good preparation for him and for the rest of the team after an altitude block,” said White.
Scotson, Howson, Craddock and Juul-Jensen were also riding alongside Yates at Asturias and, as well as preparation being aligned, so are the priorities of the squad, with no sprinter in the mix. That is also the case for key favourites Ineos Grenadiers, led by Richard Carapaz, who left Elia Viviani off the roster. However, they are a rival who has made no secret of the fact that it is a third victory in a row for the team that they are targeting.
BikeExchange-Jayco have been less willing to set up a second Grand Tour win for the team, to add to the British rider’s 2018 Vuelta a España victory, as the only mark of success at the Giro d’Italia. The aim is broader as the race begins, but that doesn’t mean it won’t narrow later.
“A success in a way is not the end result,” said Yates. “I want to go there in my best condition and do the best result possible. If I don’t win then, then that’s ok because somebody is better than me. If I go there and I am not at the level required, then that is a failure for me.
“From an actual racing point of view, you always aim for the podium. We aim for the podium and once we get closer to the last week, we assess if we are in a position to win it or not, then we go at it from there.”