A well rounded Mitchelton-SCOTT team ready to tackle Itzulia Pais Vasco

Fri 5 Apr 2019

Mitchelton-SCOTT head to the Basque Country next week with ambitions for stage victories but with the general classification in mind, for the tough six-day race - Itzulia Pais Vasco.

The team has tasted stage success before in the event on multiple occasions, and this year return to the green rolling hills of northern Spain, eyeing high result overall following on from their recent successes.

Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta Catalunya runner-up Adam Yates has displayed his top form over the past weeks and will head the seven-man squad, with experienced local Basque rider Mikel Nieve for support alongside a fairly young team, bolstered with climbing talent.

Dion Smith will provide the Australian outfit with speed should there be any sprint stages on offer, which gives Mitchelton-SCOTT a well rounded group ready to tackle the Spring race.

Mitchelton-SCOTT Team

Michael Albasini - (SUI, 38)
Lucas Hamilton - (AUS 23) 
Damien Howson - (AUS, 26)
Mikel Nieve - (SPA 34) 
Dion Smith - (NZ 25) 
Nick Schultz - (AUS 23)
Adam Yates - (GB, 26) 

The Course

The six-day race kicks off with a 11.3km individual time trial before the taking on the relentless and unforgiving undulating terrain. Stage 2 could prove to be defining with the peloton facing some challenging off-road gravel sections and many unclassified climbs along the route before a slight uphill finish. Stage 3 is similar, with a lot of rolling roads and two categorised climbs throughout the day and again with gradual uphill finish.

Stage four, five and six are the most challenging and ones for the climbers, with first category climbs scattered throughout with the fifth day finishing in Arrate, directly after the well known first category Usartza climb.

The Past

The team’s best result overall was 5th place with Simon Yates in 2015 but the team has also had six stage victories over the years with four different riders. 

Daryl Impey claimed a stage win in both 2012 and 2013 editions of the race, former rider Simon Gerrans also took a victory in 2013 on the first stage, whilst another former rider Michael Matthews won stages in 2014 and 2015. More recently in 2017 Michael Albasini was victorious on stage 2.

Mikel Nieve

“It is always special to race on home roads in front of the family, friends and all the Basque crowds. I feel good and pretty motivated, after the crashes in Paris-Nice I've recovered well at home and I feel ready for the race. 

“This year the race looks hard again, with some gravel roads on the second day and with a lot of hard climbs especially in the last two days. Every day is important and we will see how we go day by day. 

“Adam is very strong, for sure is one of the favourites and also we have a pretty strong team so hopefully we can play an important role in the race.”

Dion Smith

“It will be my first time doing Pais Vasco, I am looking forward to it, it is going to be a pretty hard race from what I have heard and from the past. The profiles look pretty solid, I don’t really know what to expect but I’ve come out with some good form after Catalunya and I can take some confidence from that race. It took me a few days to recover but I should be good to go by Monday.

“We have a solid team with Adam in good form and Nieve has a lot of experience and I think it will be another good week. I hear weather isn’t suppose to be super good but I don’t think that will change things too much.”

Julian Dean - Sport Director

“The GC has to be a consideration for us after our recent results and given how Adam has been riding, but we have quite a good solid team, so there will be plenty of opportunities for everyone.

"I think we can actually expect the race to be set quite early on with the time trial on the first stage, so the priority is to get through that well and then we will see.

“There’s no pure sprint stages as such but the form Dion showed in Catalunya, I think there will be some good stages for him aswell and that will be a focus for us to help Dion for the stage that suit.”

La Vuelta al Pais Vasco Race Details:

Monday, 8th Apr: Stage 1, Zumarraga - Zumarraga ITT, 11.3km
Tuesday, 9th Apr: Stage 2, Zumarraga - Gorraiz, 149.5km
Wednesday, 10th Apr: Stage 3, Sarriguren - Estibaliz, 191.4km
Thursday, 11th Apr: Stage 4, Victoria-Gasteiz - Arrigorriaga, 164.1km
Friday, 12th Apr: Stage 5, Arrigorriaga - Arrate, 149.5km
Saturday, 13th Apr: Stage 6, Eibar - Eibar, 118.2km 

Photos courtesy of Getty Images