Mitchelton’s GC play paid off in spades in 2018
Mitchelton-Scott’s long-play bet on the GC paid off in spades in 2018. The Australian-based team debuted in 2012 built on sprinters and breakaway artists but quietly started to build the foundation for the overall classification. After scoring podiums in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España in 2016, the team struck gold this year.
Simon Yates raced to the overall victory at the Vuelta, the team’s first grand tour triumph.
“We have made no secret of our switch toward a GC focus and our burning desire to win a grand tour,” said manager Shayne Bannon. “To achieve that this season was something this organization will never forget.”
Yates’s consistency and winning confidence at the Vuelta more than made up for the disappointment he suffered at the Giro. Yates, 26, was looking untouchable in the Italian tour until a dramatic collapse on the penultimate mountain stage. Mitchelton-Scott officials at the time remained upbeat because they felt that Yates’s performance through much of the Giro would only bode well for future GC runs.
Little did the team know that Yates would return the favor during the Vuelta. With the presence of superior time trialists Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Chris Froome (Sky), Yates could race in a different way than he did at the Giro. At the Vuelta, Yates patiently bided his time and delivered the team’s first grand tour victory.
“What happened in the Giro helped Simon win the Vuelta,” said lead sport director Matt White. “And without that experience in the Giro, I don’t think he would have won the Vuelta. That Giro was critical in his development as a GC leader.”
Despite the switch to a more GC-focused program, that doesn’t mean the Aussie squad isn’t still chasing victories. In 2018 it clocked a franchise record of 38 victories, three more than the team’s previous record of 35 in 2014.
“This year has been extremely satisfying to us as an organization,” Bannon continued. “Not just because of the great results our riders achieved but just as much to see the general progression of the entire team.”
A few things will change in 2019 with the departure of important names. Mat Hayman, the 2016 winner of Paris-Roubaix, will retire after racing in January’s Santos Tour Down Under. Sprinter Caleb Ewan is heading to Lotto-Soudal, along with Roger Kluge, in the wake of his Tour de France snub this summer. Other departures include Romain Kreuziger (Dimension Data), Robert Power (Sunweb), Svein Tuft (Rally Cycling) and Carlos Verona (Movistar). Top arrivals include Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) and Tsgabu Grmay (Trek-Segafredo).
Despite the shakeups, the team’s core remains firmly focused on GC. The team is hopeful Adam Yates and Chaves, zapped by the Epstein-Barr virus much of this season, will continue on their progressions. Chaves delivered the team’s first two grand tour podiums, while Adam Yates still holds the team’s best Tour GC finish with a fourth in 2016. Both Yates brothers are under contract through 2020. Chaves, who hasn’t raced since the Giro, has one more year left on his contract.
What’s next? Plenty. The team hopes to continue playing its GC cards across the grand tours. Simon Yates said he has “unfinished business” with the Giro following his late-race collapse in May, while Adam Yates also wants to confirm his promise. The Giro and Tour de France will take center stage as the team raises the bar.
“Results don’t come easily at the best of times, but when you change focus and commit to building a new target from the base up,” Bannon said. “It takes a lot of hard work, persistence and time.”