Giro d'Italia: Simon Yates has 'deep passion' to try to win race
Briton Simon Yates has a "deep passion" to try to win the Giro d'Italia after going "so close" last year.
Having led for 13 stages, Yates looked set to win his first Grand Tour - but compatriot Chris Froome took the title after a stunning attack on stage 19.
Mitchelton-Scott's Yates went on to win the Vuelta a Espana in September, and is among the favourites for this year's Giro, which starts on Saturday.
"Now I've done it at the Vuelta, I know I can do it again," he said.
The 26-year-old won three stages at last year's Giro but began to fade in the final week as Froome and 2017 winner Tom Dumoulin increased the pressure.
Speaking to the BBC Sport's cycling podcast, BeSpoke, Yates added: "I felt I was so close last year. I was more disappointed for the team because we'd worked so hard over so many stages to get to that point.
"Now I look back with fond memories from that race. I don't look back at it with any regrets.
"I have a deep passion to go back and try to win."
The 102nd edition of the three-week race around Italy starts in Bologna and finishes in Verona on Sunday, 2 June.
Who are the contenders?
With Froome choosing not to defend his title, as he focuses on trying to win a record-equalling fifth Tour de France, the race feels wide open.
Dutchman Dumoulin, who won the world time-trial title in 2017 and is now also a climbing specialist, is among the main contenders, particularly as there are three individual time-trial stages totalling about 60km.
But though that will suit the 28-year-old, he says the hilly nature of those stages means "in terms of gaining time, I probably won't take that much".
Italian Vincenzo Nibali is eyeing a third Giro title after victories in 2013 and 2016.
At 34, he is the veteran of the peloton but he has an excellent Grand Tour pedigree, with four wins among 10 podium finishes across Giro, Vuelta and Tour de France.
"I think everyone knows that I'm always at my best for the big goals, and that I'm always competitive and can finish on the final podium in a Grand Tour," he told Cycling News.
Miguel Angel Lopez is one of the rising stars to look out for. The 25-year-old Colombian won the best young rider classification at last year's Giro - finishing third overall, just as he did in the Vuelta.
And then there's Yates. He said he had to ride aggressively at last year's Giro because he was "afraid" he could lose up to four minutes in the time trials but has improved his time trialling to the extent he won a stage against the clock at Paris-Nice earlier this year.
What is the route?
The 21 stages predominantly take place in the northern half of Italy and feature three individual time trials and 40 categorised climbs. There are also six mountain-top finishes - and the race is bookended by two of them.
The first half of the race is largely for the sprinters, with home favourite Elia Viviani going up against the likes of Australia's Caleb Ewan and Colombia's Fernando Gaviria.
The longest time trial of the race, in San Marino on stage nine, is likely to shake up the general classification prior to the race heading into the Alps before a final week in the Dolomites.
Where are Team Sky?
The team formerly known as Team Sky are entering their first Grand Tour since Team Ineos officially took over as team sponsor on 1 May.
Chris Lawless marked their arrival by winning last weekend's Tour de Yorkshire. but their hopes of winning the Giro were hampered when Egan Bernal was forced to pull out after a crash in training.
Britain's Tao Geoghegan Hart finished second behind team-mate Pavel Sivakov at the recent Tour of the Alps - and they go in as joint team leaders.
They will be supported by, among others, Ireland's Eddie Dunbar, who played a big role in Lawless' recent victory. That said, three weeks racing around Italy is a much sterner test than four days in Yorkshire.