Mitchelton-SCOTT hoping to hit the ground running in Europe at the five-day Volta Valencia

Sun 2 Feb 2020

Mitchelton-SCOTT begin their 2020 season in Europe next week, at the five-day Spainish tour, Volta Valencia, with last year’s top ten finisher Jack Haig the team’s main hope for general classification success.

Slovenian sprinter Luka Mezgec will give the team an option for the flatter sprint stages, as he makes his return to racing since crashing out of the 2019 Vuelta Espana on stage 14. 

The Australian outfit has enjoyed multiple stage victories in the event in the past and return this year, hoping to test the legs early and start their European stage racing campaign off strongly once again.

Mitchelton-SCOTT at Volta Valencia (5-9th February):
Michael Albasini - (SUI, 39)
Tsgabu Grmay - (ETH 28)
Jack Haig - (AUS, 26)
Chris Juul-Jensen - (DEN, 30)
Luka Mezgec - (SLO, 31)
Callum Scotson -(AUS, 22)
Rob Stannard - (AUS, 21)

The Course:
With the absence of an individual time trial which created important time differences in the 2019 edition, the 2020 course features three flat finishes and two hill top finishes, with the main general classification test coming on stage four. 

The 156kilometre fourth day includes two climbs before the final steep ramp up to the summit finish on Sierra de Bernia, covering a total of 2884 altitude metres in the short stage distance. 

The Past:
In 2019, Mitchelton-SCOTT enjoyed success in the five-day event picking up two stage victories. Former rider Matteo Trentin kick started thier winning ways with a sprint victory on stage two, followed by Adam Yates taking his first victory in eight months, on a steep hill-top finish on stage four. 

Australian climber Haig was the highest finisher overall for the team in seventh place, after consistent results throughout the race, which included ninth place finish on the key mountain stage behind stage winner Yates.

Jack Haig
"I am excited to get the 2020 season underway, last year I did the same block of racing in Spain to begin the season and this year I am looking forward to hopefully starting the season as well as I did last year.

"During the winter I had a slightly different approach to last year, I did the team touring camp in January whereas last year I had my own training camp at altitude in Tenerife, so I am curious to see how the different style of training has set me up for the season. There’s a little bit of unknown going into this first race, but there always is.

“The stages are slightly different this year too, on stage two we have a short but really steep uphill finish and then on stage four there’s another hard hill top. These two finishes don’t actually suit me because they’re so steep, the longer one is maybe 11% average and probably suits the smaller 60kg guys more, but obviously I will try and it will be a good way to test the legs and the form the future goals.

“We also have Mezgec for sprints, so hopefully we’ll also be able to get behind him for some of the flatter stages.”

Luka Mezgec
”I’m very much excited for the start of the season. It’s been a while since I raced as I had such a short season, last year finishing mid-September due to a crash, so this makes returning to racing even more anticipated.

“My work during the winter was very good, so I am really looking forward to seeing how the legs will respond in the first races. First races are always a bit tricky to find a good spot for the sprint, because everyone has been away from the bunch kicks for a long time and there’s always some new riders who try to do everything from the start of the season. That makes final kilometres a bit more crowded and chaotic.

"The goal is to get back to being comfortable in the bunch and on the sprint days I will try to go for the win."

Dave McPartland - Sport Director
“We’re going into the race to try and get a high result overall, we have Haig as our GC rider and we want to give him the best chance possible and really try to hit the ground running.

"We want to get the process right, it is the first race back for all of these guys, they all looked good on training camp but every team is probably saying the same thing and you don’t really know until you get stuck into racing. 

“The race is pretty undulating, we also can’t underestimate the potential for wind in this area. We need to be switched on right from the start, making sure the process is right, so it is a good race to do that without too much pressure.

“The final climb on stage four looks really hard and will definitely sort out the GC guys but there is also a climb to finish stage two, it is only two kilometres so there shouldn’t be huge times gaps there but the run-in will be super important and we’ll need all hands on deck going into the bottom of that climb for Haig.

"It is also real good week for Luka Mezgec to have a good crack at sprints and getting back into it, we don’t have a super strong lead-out team, but Luka is pretty good at handling himself in sprints."

2020 Volta Valencia - Stage Details:
Wednesday, 5th Feb: Stage 1, Castello - Vila-Real, 180km
Thursday, 6th Feb: Stage 2, Torrent - Cullera, 181km 
Friday, 7th Feb: Stage 3, Orihuela - Torrevieja, 168km
Saturday, 8th Feb: Stage 4, Calp - Altea, 156km
Sunday, 9th Feb: Stage 5, Paterna - Valencia, 98km 

Photos courtesy of Getty Images