YATES AND ASTANA MAKE LAST MINUTE DASH TO GIRO
As you read this, Briton Sean Yates is either on a boat, or in an Astana team vehicle or, just for variety’s sake, he’s on a boat again - direction southern Italy and the start of the Giro.
Yates will be directing Astana - together with Kazakh Alexandre Schefer - in the Tour of Italy this Saturday. But he only found out - as did the rest of the team - that he was going last Friday.
“Call me back in an hour, I’m about to get on the ferry for France.” was Yates request late on Sunday evening from south-east England. From the Channel Ports he headed by road to the team’s service course in Belgium and then south to the Italian port of Genoa. Again, by road.
The distance? Roughly 1,200 kilometres and Yates had to be there in Genoa for 6 pm Monday evening. If he wasn't he'd miss his ferry to Sicily and the Giro - a boat trip that would take him and the Astana vehicles another 10 hours.
“From what I’ve heard from the team mechanics who’ve done this trip before, the ferry to Sicily’s not exactly Queen Elizabeth the Second, either. It's not going to be comfortable." Yates, no stranger to the tougher side of life, says.
"Exotic" travel like this doesn’t make directing a major ProTour team sound that attractive. But that’s what happens when a squad like Astana gets excluded from the Tour of Italy in February and then invited back in again with just eight days to go before the race.
Come Wednesday morning, the whole process of getting ready for the race proper will start. That sounds like it'll be fairly relaxed in comparison to the previous week.
“It’s not ideal.” the former Tour leader [in 1994] and Motorola pro. says with his usual gift for laconic under-statement. “But we don’t have much choice in the matter. And we’re glad we’re finally going.”
At the moment he’s having to learn fast about a race he'd expected he'd be watching on television. On Sunday he didn't even have a road book [the internal guide to the race] for the Giro - “otherwise I’d be reading that on the bleeding ferry, wouldn’t I?”
In fact, Yates doesn’t have “a very good idea of that much about the race this year in general. I don't even know who the real contenders are going to be. Simoni? Di Luca? I’ll find out soon enough.”
Astana team leader Alberto Contador is, like Yates, having to adapt fast.
“I would have liked to have known that I was going to race the Giro before, to be able to prepare my debut in this race as I should.” he said on Sunday.
For a week after winning the Tour of the Basque Country, Contador didn’t train at all, but recovered from a major dental operation. He then alternated easy training rides with periods of rest because in theory his next race was the the Dauphine Libere on June 8th.
“I have just discovered that I have to ride the Giro. When I found out, I was on holiday in the south of Spain. The Giro was not on my program and that means I’m not in good shape right now. But I will do what I can.”
The 2007 Tour winner knows none of the Giro climbs but is aware that “it is an extraordinary race for a climber, as you can see if you look back at who's won it.”
“I have the utmost respect for this race and I would like to have trained for it properly. I want to fight to win all the races that I do, particularly if it’s a three week Tour. But right now, I have no idea at all how good my form really is.”