Mitchelton-SCOTT return to happy hunting ground in the Basque Country

Fri 17 May 2019

After an impressive spring classics campaign in Northern Europe, Mitchelton-SCOTT head south to the Basque Country as they line-up for the one-day Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria and the WWT Emakumeen XXXII.Bira four-day stage race.

Defending Bira champion Amanda Spratt comes into both races after an attacking display at the Tour de Yorkshire and she will be joined by Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Annemiek van Vleuten, who herself took victory in Durango in 2017.

Herald Sun Tour winner Lucy Kennedy will give the team strength in numbers in the mountains, while Australian Gracie Elvin adds valuable experience as well as an option for the rolling road stages. Track world champion Alex Manly will make her first appearance of the season on European roads as she comes into both races fresh off the Tour of Chongming Island along with Jess Allen.

Mitchelton-SCOTT Team:
Jess Allen (AUS, 26)
Gracie Elvin (AUS, 30)
Lucy Kennedy (AUS, 30)
Alex Manly (AUS, 23)
Amanda Spratt (AUS, 31)
Annemiek van Vleuten (NED, 36)

The Courses

The action kicks-off with a one-day affair on the outskirts of Durango as the peloton tackle a 113-kilometre hilly route. The day begins with five loops before moving onto the finishing circuit that centres around the Alto de Goiuria climb that will likely decide the race.

After a day’s break, the racing resumes with the four-stage WWT Emakumeen XXXII.Bira, with a mountainous parcours set to test the bunch. The opening two stages present opportunities for the sprinters to have a crack at glory with two category three climbs on the menu each day the only real test. 

The second half of the race heads into the mountains and although stage three is only short at 98-kilometres in length, the category one Opakua climb and the category two summit finish in Santa Teodosia will be selective. The fourth and final day is another mountain stage with four categorised ascents spread over 156-kilometres, the last of which is the category one Asentzio that tops out at with 16-kilometres remaining.

The Past

Mitchelton-SCOTT have tasted success at both races in the past, most recently with Spratt taking the overall at WWT Emakumeen XXXII.Bira in 2018. The Australian took the final stage win with Van Vleuten making it a one-two on the general classification as she took a stage and second overall.

The team have won WWT Emakumeen XXXII.Bira on three occasions in total, including back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 with former riders Judith Arndt and Emma Johansson. Johansson also claimed victory at Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria in 2015 while Van Vleuten came out on top in the one-day race in 2017.

Annemiek van Vleuten:
“I love racing in the Basque Country. It’s special to race there with the fans and the short steep climbs suit my style of riding, so going there is something I really look forward to.”

“The final of Durango is really hard, but I like it and I’m looking forward to racing with our team as we have numbers and options to play there. I think we can go into both races without pressure and for me, I can race these races with my heart, which is what I love to do.”

Amanda Spratt:
“I’m excited to go back to Bira as the defending champion, that’s pretty special! It was my first World Tour stage and GC win and I didn’t expect that last year to be honest. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself this year, I know we have a really strong team there and especially with Annemiek and Lucy for the climbs.”

“Bira is a race that I have always loved. I can’t keep count of how many times I have done it now, but I love that they are always changing the courses and providing new challenging parcours that keep it interesting throughout.”

“It’s a race that can throw everything at you, normally one sprinter stage and then stages with bigger climbs, shorter climbs, technical sections and descents and usually a lot of rain. I like this tough style of racing.”

Martin Vestby (Sports Director):
“Durango hasn’t changed much over the last few years, it more or less comes down to the last two climbs and we have some good riders for that kind of race, the girls know the course well. A lot of the girls haven’t raced since Tour de Yorkshire and they’re coming off a big spring of racing, so it will be a chance to see how everyone is going.”

“With how we have been racing I think we have to accept that we are going into races now with a lot of eyes on us and we carry some sort of responsibility, that’s something we have to expect. Whether we are defending champions at Bira or not, it doesn’t really change anything, we just have to race our race.”

“We have strong climbers for both of these races in Spratty, Annemiek and Lucy, so as usual we have cards to play depending on how the race plays out and we’ll be looking to make the race hard for everyone else.”

Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria Race Details:
Monday, 20th May: Durango – Durango, 113km

WWT Emakumeen XXXII.Bira Race Details:
Wednesday, 22nd May: Stage 1, Iurreta – Iurreta, 101km
Thursday, 23rd May: Stage 2, Aduna - Amasa, 112km
Friday, 24th May: Stage 3, Ametzaga de Zuia - Santa Teodosia, 98km
Saturday, 25th May: Stage 4, Oñati-Oñati, 156km

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.