Team Focus 2019: Mitchelton-Scott

Nationality: Australian

2018 WT Ranking: 5th

2018 WT major wins: Tour Down Under, Daryl Impey; Stages 9-11-15 Il Giro, Stage 14 & GC La Vuelta, Simon Yates; Stage 6 Il Giro, Esteban Chaves; Stage 20 Il Giro, Mikel Nieve

Riders to watch in 2019: Simon Yates, Adam Yates, Esteban Chaves

Notable for: YouTubing; Simon Yates’ Giro meltdown; Simon Yates’ Vuelta redemption

MITCHELTON-SCOTT WON A GRAND TOUR IN 2018. YOU’D HAVE TO THINK THEY MIGHT DO IT AGAIN SOME TIME.

Simon Yates’ victory for the Australian outfit in the Vuelta was a remarkable story even for those not particularly invested in the rider or the team.

This was redemption narrative at its finest: a rider brought low by humiliating collapse coming back to silence his detractors with a magnificent and dominant win. Only the coldest observer would fail to appreciate Yates’ exploits in Spain after he suffered one of the most dramatic blowouts in recent memory at the Giro earlier in the year.

It was an exceptional effort that KONM had felt sure would roll to a halt as the third week arrived. Yates had seized the red jersey for the second time in the race after stage 14, and looked strong. After that spectacular implosion in Italy, however, KONM was certain it was only a matter of time before Yates relinquished top spot in the GC.

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But he didn’t. Not even in the stage 16 TT, in which he actually extended his lead over Alejandro Valverde. On stage 19, Valverde was shaken off decisively and everyone watching realised Yates wasn’t going to f*ck it up this time around.

He’d ridden bravely and intelligently throughout, often without especially impressive support from his team-mates. If the spectre of the Giro hadn’t been hanging over him, most people would have felt Yates had it sewn up after the time-trial. By the time the peloton trundled into Madrid, no-one could say he didn’t deserve it.

Going into 2019, Yates will now be part of the conversation in whichever grand tour he decides to ride. After that Vuelta display, that’s only natural. The question will be whether he can do it in a race targeted seriously by the other major GC riders.

Two things though, Simon: please, please get rid of those absolutely dreadful goggles and try to find a helmet that doesn’t make you and your brother look like a shiny, smiley mushrooms.

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There were plenty of wins elsewhere for Mitchelton-Scott, but the other big news was surely the departure of Caleb Ewan. The young Australian had been with the team in its various guises since 2014, but will race for Lotto Soudal in 2019.

The Belgian team are likely to put a lot of their weight behind Ewan and give him the lead-outs required to win big races. There’s a sense that he’d been left out in the cold a bit by M-S due to their increased focus on GC – at Lotto, he’ll probably be the main man in grand tours.

Aside from that, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Esteban Chaves. Simon Yates’ victory surely made the Briton number one at the team, while Adam Yates appears to be slowly making his way up the food chain as well. Does this mean Chavito becomes a super-dom? Or do Mitchelton-Scott dish out the grand tours evenly between the trio?

KONM doesn’t want to see Chavito marginalised, but has a horrible feeling that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Featured photo: Filip Bossuyt/Flickr, edited by KONM

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Writer featured in/on FourFourTwo, Guardian, The Set Pieces, Sports Illustrated, R&K, TFT, Nightwatchman, World Soccer, Pickles, Cricketworld and more. Twitter: @HeavyFirstTouch

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