Egan Bernal will swerve the Tour de France and probably the Olympics as well because of a troublesome back injury although he is optimistic the issue will not derail his hopes of victory in the Giro d'Italia.
The Colombian stormed to victory on stage 16 on Monday to strengthen his grip on the pink jersey, with the 24-year-old sitting two minutes and 24 seconds ahead of nearest challenger Damiano Caruso atop the general classification.
Simon Yates, currently placed fifth and a further one minute and 56 seconds behind, believes Bernal "is head and shoulders above everybody" but the race leader is managing a back complaint that blighted his 2020 season.
"I'm not going to lie, it still hurts me sometimes more than anything in the starts or halfway through than at the end, then it worries me because it could be affecting the lower back and all that area," he said on the final rest day.
"I'm doing physiotherapy every day, I think it'll hold up for the rest of the race, I don't think the pain will suddenly go off the scale, so I'm confident all will be well until then."
While he is upbeat ahead of the final five stages of this year's edition of the Giro, the Ineos Grenadiers rider has no plans to take part in the Tour de France, where he finished top of the GC standings two years ago.
"I think I won't go to the Tour, normally the Giro and Tour is really hard," he added. "I think guys who are now in the Tour team are doing a really good preparation, so I think they can do really well.
"I prefer to just focus on the second part of the season, maybe ride La Vuelta. I'm not sure about the Olympics (either) because I still have this problem in my back, so I don't want to push my body too much.
"I don't know, I just have to finish the Giro, then I think about the second part of the season."
Yates has written off his - or anyone's - hopes of catching up to Bernal and is instead focused on a strong finish in a bid to claim a podium spot. He is currently 40 seconds adrift of British compatriot Hugh Carthy.
"Bernal is head and shoulders above everybody at the moment, it's difficult to see him lose the grip on the GC now," Yates said.
"The win is going to be very difficult, it would need something very special and something very unexpected to happen for me to win. If that chance does arrive I will try to take it but it would be very surprising.
"But the podium is still up for play. There's still a lot to fight for and a lot of changes to come and hopefully I can make a difference and be able to get back on to the podium there."
Australian Associated Press