Mitchelton-SCOTT kick off the European classics season at the opening weekendThu 22 Feb 2018
The European classics season officially opens this weekend for Mitchelton-SCOTT with back to back races in Belgium at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Traditionally known as the ‘opening weekend’ the first race will be Nieuwsblad on Saturday, covering 196kilometres from Gent to Ninove and takes in some 13-bergs including the iconic Muur Van Gerradsbergen before a tough finish on the old Tour of Flanders route.
Sunday will see the same line up take on the more sprinter friendly Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne that covers around 200kilometres across the Flemmish Ardennes with the field tackling the famous Oude Kwaremont before the long and flat run to the finish, usually contested by a select group of around 40riders.
The Mitchelton-SCOTT team includes Grand Tour stage winners and classics specialists Luke Durbridge and Matteo Trentin who will have freedom, but no pressure.
Both riders are on the comeback trail from early season injury and will be joined by 2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Mathew Hayman and current Australian national road champion Alexander Edmondson.
Strong support comes from Danish stalwart Chris Juul Jensen and multiple track world champion Michael Hepburn with neo-pro Lucas Hamilton completing the versatile seven-rider team.
Luke Durbridge (AUS, 26)
Alexander Edmondson (AUS, 24)
Lucas Hamilton (AUS, 21
Mathew Hayman (AUS, 39)
Michael Hepburn (AUS, 26)
Chris Juul Jensen (DEN, 28)
Matteo Trentin (IT, 28)
With no outright leader for either race and key riders on the way back from injury the team boasts three or four options but will be looking to come through Saturday’s race with no problems and aim to make the final selection on Sunday at Kuurne and be up there to contest the finish.
Matteo Trentin – Classics Specialist:
“I am really looking forward to the weekend, the start of the classics is always exciting, and it will be good to get back into that style of racing. To be honest I don’t know how to compare my form to the rest of the classics guys, with my recovery I raced twice in Spain and the terrain is different and also there were not many other classics specialists at those races.”
“We come in on the back of a really good team camp in Almeria and since the rib injury back in January I’ve been feeling better and improving all the time. It is still early in the season, but I feel good and I’m quite pleased with my shape after Murcia and Almeria.
“It will be a different level of competition at the weekend and Luke is also returning from injury, but if we have good legs in these races then we can aim to be up there at the key moments. It’s also going to be important and good for us to test ourselves against the other classics riders and see how we are going.”
Sport director Laurenzo Lapage:
“We aren’t going into either of the weekends races with clear leaders, for sure Matteo and Luke will have some freedom, but with the crashes they both suffered in January we won’t be putting too much pressure on at this stage and also it can be good for Alex also to have a free role and see what he can do.”
“Saturday could be good for Alex, but it will be a very tough race. With the finish now following the old Tour of Flanders route it gives the race another element and will be challenging for the whole field.
“With Luke and Matteo we don’t want to risk anything too soon, it’s a long season ahead and it would be great if we can get up there with Matteo on Sunday at Kuurne and have a presence in the final selection, but there won’t be any pressure.
“You can see from his fourth place in Murcia that Matteo is coming back quickly and strong, but these are different types of races. He is a great addition to the squad and you can see already that he is a real leader and showing himself within the group.”
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad takes place on Saturday 24th of February and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne follows on Sunday 25th.
Photos courtesy of Getty images.