Simon Yates and a push for the podium will be at the center of the team’s plans when the Vuelta starts August 19 in the Netherlands.
A Vuelta winner in 2018, Yates is coming hot off a string a top results since he returned to racing last month, with victories at the Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika and Vuelta a Castilla y León, and sixth at the Clásica de San Sebastián.
The final Vuelta roster is not yet defined, but neither Dylan Groenewegen or Michael Matthews will be doubling up after each won dramatic stages during the Tour. Instead, both of them will race a mixed calendar of one-day races and smaller stage races for the closing weeks of the season to chase more victories.
Kaden Groves, who won his first WorldTour sprint victory at the Volta a Catalunya in March, will be making his grand tour debut.
“We had two wins and four second places, so we exited the Tour de France quite well,” sport director Matt White told VeloNews. “We’ve won some smaller races already with Simon, and we’re sitting with 20 wins so far on the season, so that’s great for us. We want to keep that momentum going.”
- BikeExchange-Jayco’s future assured for next three seasons
- Matthews wins spectacular Tour stage
- 2022 Vuelta a España preview
With 20 victories so far, that puts the Aussie-backed team at No. 7 in rankings in terms of wins on the season among the WorldTour, and gives the squad breathing room in the ever-tightening chase for UCI points to assure a spot in the 18-team WorldTour league for next season and beyond.
Coming out of the Tour, BikeExchange-Jayco moved up ahead of such teams as Movistar, Lotto Soudal, and Israel Premier Tech in the quest for WorldTour qualification.
White said the Tour success paid off after some longterm tactical planning as well as some big decisions like signing Groenewegen earlier this season and putting him through the paces to prepare for a return to the Tour.
“A lot of things clicked for us at the Tour,” White said. “And when things clicked, we got on a roll and rode that wave and momentum all the way to Paris.”
BikeExchange pivoted to stage victories during the Tour de France with big success
The popular Aussie team decided to return a bit to its roots for the 2022 Tour.
With Yates coming off an injury despite a hot start to the Giro that ultimately saw him exit the Italian grand tour early, the team brought a squad to Copenhagen packed with stage-hunters and opportunists.
That tactic paid off in a huge way for BikeExchange-Jayco last month.
“It’s the first time we’ve gone to the Tour de France without a GC leader since 2016 when Adam Yates won the white jersey,” White said. “Those first few Tours for us, we were a team of opportunists looking to win stages.
“It’s a totally different race when you’re riding like that,” White said. “Last year, we went with similar options, and we came close to winning stages. But to win twice this year and have the Tour we did was absolutely massive for us.”
Also joining Groenewegen and Matthews during the Tour was promising talent Nick Schultz, who delivered one of the team’s four second places by just missing victory at Megève on stage 10. Matthews was twice second in sprints before delivering a stunning victory in Mende, and Groenewegen capped a strong Tour with second on the Champs-Élysées.
White said the team is thrilled to have squeezed out two stage wins from the tightly wound race that offered few opportunities for the peloton’s pure sprinters.
“It was a really hard year in the Tour for the sprinters. In the last 20 years, I don’t think I’ve seen such a bare Tour for the sprinters,” White said. “Usually there are six-seven-eight sprints, and there were four this year. So for Dylan to win a stage with us in his first year was a big relief for him and a real pleasure for everyone on the team.”
While newcomer’s Groenewegen win was big at both a personal level for the Dutchman as well as the team, it was Matthews’ emotional victory to Mende that pushed things over the top.
Matthews was twice second earlier in the Tour, and uncorked a long-distance attack 55km away from the steep, second-category climb to Mende. Perhaps from a distance that tactic seemed unconventional, White said the team worked out its playbook with Matthews weeks in advance.
Matthews’ victory was the result of reacting and adapting to the ever changing power structure within the peloton. With Groenewegen carrying the team colors in the bunch sprints, Matthews was in reserve for the uphill kickers and more challenging finales.
His long-distance raid at Mende was all about anticipating the race and putting himself in position to win the stage.
“The racing at the Tour is changing and there is a new breed of athlete coming in. The Wouts, the Van der Poels, the Pidcocks — these guys are world champions in cyclocross, Olympic champions in mountain biking. They can do it all, and they’re 25,” White said.
“There are only two ways to beat those guys. No. 1, trying to win races where they’re not racing. Or you change the chip, and change the way you race and be more unpredictable. Who would have thought an attack from 55km from the finish in Mende would have worked? And hold it off for the win? He trusted our plan. The plan was to get into the break, get ahead on the climbs, and get in position to try to beat the climbers in the group. You have to attack them early, and he had the legs to finish it off.
“That’s a massive change for Michael,” White said. “That was the beauty of having Matthews there. If the stages were too hard for Dylan, we had Michael.”
Like Groenewegen, Matthews will not race the Vuelta. Instead, he will be racing at GP Quest Plouay and the Canadian races next month, two races he’s previously won, and then prepare for the UCI road world championships on home roads in Australia.
With team Gerry Ryan committed to three more seasons assuring the team’s future through at least 2025, White said the foundation is in place for even more success.
“It’s massive for our organization,” White said. “We’ve had one of our best years ever and now we can plan to make it even better going forward.”
When things click, the wins can come in bunches.