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AGRIGENTO, Italy (VN) — Some teams bring an entire squad built around one strong leader. Think Team Sky or Sunweb in this 2018 Giro d’Italia.
Others have two options. Mitchelton-Scott is in a league of its own. The Aussie outfit brings a three-pronged attack to the Giro.
On the eve of the Giro’s first major summit finale, the Australian outfit has packed its three captains into the top-20.
“Anyone coming here with a GC is aiming to win,” said Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White. “We are going to go as high as we can.”
Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves are the team’s outright leaders, with Roman Kreuziger playing the joker. The team’s three-man attack could help produce openings not only for stage wins but also set up a GC trap.
“We’re not the big favorites, so we don’t have the pressure to control the race,” White said. “That should help us going into the really hard part of the Giro.”
No one’s complaining about the team’s situation right now. The climbers successfully limited their losses in the Jerusalem time trial, and Simon Yates is already knocking on the door for a stage win.
Making his Giro debut, Yates is poised in third at 17 seconds back. A strong ride Thursday up the flanks of Europe’s highest active volcano could see him nudge closer to pink.
Chaves, a podium man with second overall in 2016, is 14th at 47 seconds back, with Kreuziger in 21st, tied with two others at 56 seconds back.
Friday’s summit finale up a new approach to the smoldering summit of Mount Etna should provide the first major GC shakeup of this Giro. For Mitchelton-Scott, the volcano summit should sort out their internal GC hierarchy.
“Yatesy’s been top-10 before in both the Vuelta and Tour, so it would be good to get a result with him,” White said. “Esteban is the same. Either one is good for us.”
The team works well as a unit and doesn’t have the inside-the-bus acrimony that sometimes can cripple multi-pronged attack.
Chaves says he’s back at his best following an uneven 2017 campaign that saw him struggle with a knee injury. With second in the 2016 Giro and third at the 2016 Vuelta a España, Chaves is keen to remind everyone he’s a grand tour contender with a strong ride this month.
“We are dreamers, and in this Giro, we are dreaming very high,” Chaves said. “I am looking forward to this Giro. What happened last time [in 2016] was great, and I hope to do even better.”
Any grand tour’s first summit finale typically spits out would-be pretenders to the throne. Mitchelton-Scott is hoping to keep all three in the GC frame before the Giro returns to the Italian peninsula for Friday’s stage 7.
“Both [Esteban] Chaves and [Simon] Yates are flying. They’re not the clear, clear favorites, but if they have a good day on the right stage, they can make something happen,” said teammate Svein Tuft. “That’s my job to keep them out of trouble. They need to conserve and wait for that right moment. It’s my job to help get them there.”
Like the other climbers in this Giro, the GreenEdge leaders know they need to take time on the likes of Tom Dumoulin or Chris Froome in the mountains if they hope to fend them off in the final-week time trial.
That battle starts Thursday at Etna. The Giro’s first mountain could quickly reveal how many GC cards the team will have to play going into the second half of the race.