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Mitchelton-SCOTT return to La Vuelta a España as the defending champions with an eye for stage wins

Fri 16 Aug 2019

Mitchelton-SCOTT has named its eight-man team for the upcoming La Vuelta a España, the third and final Grand Tour of the season, with a focus on stage wins and general classification possibilities.

Former La Vuelta podium finisher Esteban Chaves (third place in 2016), former La Vuelta stage winner Mikel Nieve (stage 16 in 2010) and recent Tour of Poland two-time stage winner Luka Mezgec provide the Australian outfit with the main ingredients to tackle the 21-day race, that features seven-summit finishes and an interesting course that also lends itself to the opportunity for taking stages wins.

Mitchelton-SCOTT at La Vuelta a España (24-15 Sept):
Sam Bewley - (NZL, 32) 5th La Vuelta appearance 

Esteban Chaves - (COL, 29) 5th La Vuelta appearance 

Tsgabu Grmay - (ETH 28) 3rd La Vuelta appearance 

Damien Howson - (AUS, 27)  4th La Vuelta appearance
Luka Mezgec - (SLO, 31) 3rd La Vuelta appearance 

Mikel Nieve - (SPA, 35) 7th La Vuelta appearance 

Nick Schultz - (AUS, 24) 3rd La Vuelta appearance 

Dion Smith - (NZL, 26) Debut

The squad, built with riders from six different countries, includes Ethiopian time trial champion Tsgabu Grmay, having recently showed his climbing strength at the Tour of Poland, plus New Zealand powerhouse Sam Bewley and Australian climber Damien Howson, who both played a crucial part in Chaves’ La Vuelta podium finish in 2016.

Fellow Australian Nick Schultz will make his third appearance in the Spanish tour whilst New Zealander Dion Smith makes his debut and adds speed to the ‘exciting’ team line-up.

The Race:
The 2019 La Vuelta a España will cover 3,290.7kilometres across 21 stages including a team time trial to start and an individual time trial on stage 10.

Eight hill-top finishes characterise the race with a first major test coming on stage nine, a short 94.4kilometre stage, that includes five categorised climbs in Andorra.

The second week is stacked with more climbing including three summit finishes, two of these are back-to-back days on stage 15 and 16 in Asturias with only first category or special category climbs featured.

Despite the abundance of mountains, the sprinters will still have their opportunity with six flat stages scattered throughout the 21-day race, but it will be a case of who can survive well through the challenging terrain.

History:
2018 was one of the biggest highlights in the Australian outfit’s history when Simon Yates secured the first men’s Grand Tour victory for the team at La Vuelta.

Previous to this, the squad targeted stage wins and La Vuelta has always been a happy hunting ground with 12 stage victories from seven different riders, plus the Mountains Classification jersey (2012 - Simon Clarke) spread throughout the team’s eight-year existence.

Esteban Chaves - Third in 2016
“I feel happy, I feel ready, the course is really good for riders like me. Normally the Vuelta suits me really well, I like the heat and I am happy with the preparation I had in Colombia after the Tour of Slovenia and now I really want to race. I am missing to pin on a number, it is a long time just training.

“I am happy with the team we have, we have a really nice group. Nieve is for sure in good shape, he is a really unbelievable and professional rider and always has a good performance. Also we saw the guys at the Tour Poland, like Luka Mezgec, he was sprinting really fast. The sprints in the Vuelta are a bit different and I think they are good for him.

After the Giro d’Italia I did a recon of the stage in Andorra, there is a really nice climb and many of the other climbs I know well after living in Andorra for a long time. The individual time trial also looks like a punchy course with enough climbing, not just super flat and that is good for me.

“I also really like to start with a TTT, our team is one team that always puts a lot of effort into that and it is a really nice way to start a Grand Tour.

“The Vuelta is one race that has always treated me well since 2014, it was my first ever Grand Tour. I am excited to start racing, hopefully for all the work we have put in, the Vuelta will be good and that is what excites me.”

Luka Mezgec
“I’m looking forward to the Vuelta, after I didn’t go to the TDF I set my primary goal to be at my best for Vuelta.

“I believe Esteban will be in a great form and that also motivates myself to be there ready to help as long as possible also on the hillier days.

“I’m also looking for some opportunities along the way for myself, Poland showed that I’m in a good form and with a hard sprint stage I will be there to contest for the win. A stage win is my personal goal for this race.

“I love this race when it’s not too hot and it’s definitely not as stressful as some other Grand Tours, the nature is beautiful and the Spanish fans are some of the most passionate fans in the world so that makes this race special.”

Julian Dean - Sport Director
“If you look at the race across three-weeks it is really relentless and already within the first week there’s some real aggressive and hard stages. There’s not really an easy consecutive few days during the whole Vuelta, so the full team has to be ready from the get go. It is going to be a race where strength and vigilance is going to be necessary from anyone who is hoping to contest the overall.

“The GC is an objective for us and we have Esteban Chaves for that, but as well as that we are focusing on stage wins. Luka Mezgec has recently had good results in Poland and we will be looking for opportunities for him. We all know that Mikel Nieve is always up for stage wins and has produced many good results in Grand Tours, so he will also be a focus for us.

“From our whole team’s perspective it is a really exciting combination of guys, if we take Nick Schultz and Dion Smith for example, it is a really great opportunity for them. They’ve probably never been in teams that have been riding for GC before so there’ll be some new experiences for them. Then we’ve also got the very experienced guys like Mikel and Sam Bewley, who will be our captain on the road.”

“Overall, with the amount of metres of climbing, this year is one of the hardest we have seen in recent years for the Vuelta. Andorra is definitely a key stage but also once we get up to Asturias there’s some climbs that we have never done before in the Vuelta, we have been and looked at these and they’re certainly quite tricky and could end up being critical stages.”

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