Simon Yates: New cycling calendar will be 'very intense' but a welcome goal

By Jack SkeltonBBC Sport
Simon Yates raises his hands in celebration after winning a stage of the 2019 Tour de France
Simon Yates won two stages at last year's Tour de France while riding in support of twin brother Adam

Simon Yates says this year's revised season will be "very intense" but he is relieved to now have races to target after two months of training indoors.

On Tuesday cycling's governing body the UCI revealed a packed revised schedule of races that have been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain's Yates, who won the 2018 Vuelta a Espana, said he is yet to pick which Grand Tour to target this year.

"No one has ever lived through a season like this," he told BBC Sport.

"It's been difficult but at the same time I'm just riding a bike for a living, there are more important things in life.

"And now we do actually have a calendar to look forward to where before we were just keeping fit in hope."

Mitchelton-Scott rider Yates, 27, was set to target the Giro d'Italia in May and the Olympics road race in August this season.

In the new calendar, which runs for just over three months from 1 August, the Giro is set for 3-25 October, overlapping with the Vuelta, while the Olympics has been postponed until next summer.

Mitchelton-Scott head sport director Matt White told Cyclingnewsexternal-link sponsors may want teams to focus on the Tour de France from 29 August to 20 September, but Yates said his team will only start to discuss his new race programme "in the next week or so".

"The season is so compact now, a lot of races are overlapping and it's going to be a very intense period, for riders and staff," he said.

"The Olympics was one of my main targets for the year but I'll just have to keep focus for next year."

Yates said he would "still like to go back to the Giro" after losing the lead to eventual winner Chris Froome on stage 19 in 2018 and finishing a disappointing eighth last year.

He added he will aim for the Tour title "in the coming years" if he does not ride it this season, having not targeted the general classification there since 2017, when he won the best young rider jersey.

Yates enjoying 'tough' indoor races in Andorra

Yates is based in Andorra and has not been able to train outdoors for two months because of the country's lockdown.

Those restrictions were eased on Monday but the 48 professional riders in Andorra have to alternate which days they can ride outside and then only for two hours at a time.

But Yates said indoor training has been "not so bad" and he has enjoyed taking part in "extremely difficult" virtual races on online training game Zwift.

"My general fitness is pretty good, considering we've been inside for seven or eight weeks," he said.

"The Zwift races have been very tough because I'm 2,000m above sea level here, although they'd be very tough even if was back in the UK because it's just full gas.

"But I've actually really enjoyed it, it's been great to have something to get stuck into."

Despite many riders living in countries like France, Italy and Spain that banned outdoor exercise as part of their lockdowns, Yates does not think the reliance on indoor training will lead to unexpected winners if this year's races go ahead.

"Obviously there will be some guys won't have rode the turbo as much and there will be some who have done even more," he said.

"But we have goals now and we are all professionals - we have enough time to get fit and ready for races. So you'll see the usual suspects competing for wins."