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Mitchelton-Scott insiders foresee a full-gas season with Tour a priority for all

Matt White and Luke Durbridge speak of logistical challenges and riders out of their training comfort zone in UCI's new 2020 calendar

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Matt White, head of Mitchelton-Scott, is forecasting a hectic season of racing stacked toward the Tour de France.

The new-look UCI calendar, unveiled Tuesday, is a densely-packed, tangled web of races. The season will hit its peak in September with the Tour and continue to build momentum from there with a jam-packed October that includes the Giro d’Italia, two weeks of the Vuelta a España, and a block of one-day races.

With seven months of racing packed into a space half that length, White anticipates riders holding one prolonged peak rather than the traditional method of building, peaking, and then recovering as and when race targets demands.

“In a normal season there’s so many ups and downs, but now you’re probably going to see every guy trying to hit form at the same time,” White said in a team release. ” You will be able to hold form pretty much from when the season starts to when it ends.”

Long-time Mitchelton-Scott / Orica GreenEdge rider Luke Durbridge said similar, anticipating the peloton bouncing straight from one race to the next and holding fitness as long as possible.

“I think that in a three-month block, you can maintain form for at least two months,” Durbridge said. “It’ll be about getting as fit and strong as possible for when racing comes around and then race, recover, race, recover, race, recover.”

“Going between grand tours and one-day races with such a rapid turnaround will be interesting,” he continued. “Sport scientists and coaches are going to have a field day trying to work out how to gauge form.”

The new-look calendar kicks in August 1 on the dirt roads of Strade Bianche, and just four weeks later, the Tour’s grand depart rolls out of Nice. Just two weeks after the Tour wraps up in Paris, the Giro d’Italia kicks off. With riders straining at the leash to return to racing and teams looking to send out its stars while they know racing is on, the Giro could be overshadowed as teams set their rosters.

“I can’t see teams ‘waiting’ for the Giro,” White said. “I think that the Tour de France will be where every team puts their first focus and after that they will work around filling spots around it.”

With only two stage races — the Tour of Poland and Criterium du Dauphine — falling before the Tour, training methods for grand tour riders may have to differ. The new calendar offers no time for the traditional long-build from March through to July for those with yellow jersey ambitions.

“The preparation period for racing is quite light. Even if there are some smaller races in July, there’s no long stage races before the Tour de France,” White said.  “It’ll be five months of no racing and then you will be starting with five to seven days of competition before the Tour, it’s not much but it is what it is.”

While having riders available to race won’t pose a problem, White and Durbridge foresee bottlenecks arising in the logistics of coordinating the circus of team busses, support staff, and multiple bikes per rider through a season packed with clashes and overlaps. October 25 will see Mitchelton-Scott racing at the Giro, Vuelta, and men’s and women’s Paris-Roubaix.

“In terms of numbers, riders won’t be a problem. It’s more of a staffing and logistical challenge with vehicles etc,” White said.

Mitchelton-Scott is one of the many teams that has had to scale back salaries as it weathers the financial impact of the coronavirus shutdown. Above all, their riders will just be pleased to be racing again.

“It’s definitely going to be a logistical nightmare for a lot of teams to run triple programs for a lot of the season, but all we can do is be happy that the sport is hopefully going to have a season,” Durbridge said. “For me, I wouldn’t know what the sport would look like if we didn’t have that.”