Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates will form a two-pronged approach at the upcoming Giro d'Italia, with the Mitchelton-Scott naming what it describes as "one of the strongest line-ups possible" to support their two leaders.
Chaves finished runner-up at the Giro in 2016, losing the pink jersey to Vincenzo Nibali on the penultimate day, and he went on to finish on the podium of the Vuelta a España and then win Il Lombardia later that year. Things didn't go so smoothly last year as injury and personal problems derailed his Tour de France debut, but the Colombian is confident he can return to Grand Tour contention.
"I'm really happy to be going back to Italy. When I became professional, I lived in Italy and it has been the place for my toughest moments, but also the most beautiful moments of my career," said Chaves, who suffered a career-threatening crash at the 2013 Trofeo Laigueglia. "Like always, the Giro will be hard but I have been in Colombia training in the last few weeks and the preparation has gone well so we can hope we can find similar form to 2016."
Having originally been down to target the Giro last year with his twin brother Adam, Chaves' injury meant Simon Yates was sent to his first Tour de France, where he finished seventh before doubling up with the Vuelta a España. The 2018 Giro, then, is the 25-year-old's third consecutive Grand Tour, with Adam chosen to lead the line at the Tour in July.
"I'm really looking forward to starting the Giro d'Italia this year for the first time. A last-minute change of program that meant I was unable to debut as planned last year so we decided to give it a try again this season," said Yates. "Even without having raced before it's clear the Giro is one of, if not the most difficult and demanding race on the calendar."
Chaves and Simon Yates have raced alongside each other at last year's Tour de France and in the past two editions of the Vuelta a España, the 2016 edition in particular serving as proof of their ability to dovetail their efforts. Chaves was fifth overall when Yates reached out for a stage 6 win that moved him into the top 10, and later in the race the team were tactically adventurous in sending Yates up the road on stage 14, with the Briton linking up with teammates who'd been placed in the break before taking on the Col d'Aubisque to leap from seventh to fourth overall. At the end of the race Chaves finished second and Yates sixth.
"We are making no secret that our focus for the Giro d'Italia is on the general classification and Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves are our leaders. They have worked really well in the past in these roles and we're expecting the same again," said directeur sportif, Matt White. "We are not the favourites, but we have two guys who are going to challenge the favourites whenever the opportunity arises."
With relatively little on offer for the sprinters at the 2018 Giro d'Italia, Mitchelton-Scott won't be taking Matteo Trentin or Caleb Ewan, instead putting all their eggs in the general classification basket. There's no shortage of mountains on the route, with a gruelling final week set to decide the winner, and Mikel Nieve, Roman Kreuziger, and Jack Haig will be the key men on the climbs.
Nieve has hardly raced this year - his first with the team after moving from Team Sky - due to a hip fracture but is currently at the Tour de Romandie getting himself into shape. If fully fit, the Spaniard will be vitally important in the high mountains, having been a key part of Chris Froome's victories in the 2016 and 2017 Tours de France and the 2017 Vuelta a España. Kreuziger goes into his 16th Grand Tour on the back of a fine Ardennes Classics period - 2nd at Amstel, 4th at Flèche, and 8th at Liège - while 24-year-old Haig starts his third Grand Tour and first Giro after also impressing in the Ardennes.
Further support will come from three of the team's most trusted domestiques - Chris Juul Jensen, Sam Bewley, and the experienced 40-year-old Svein Tuft.
"On paper we have a really good team, everyone is arriving into the shape they need to be in at the right time," said White. "It's quite an interesting course because although the first indication of the overall will come early on stage six on Mt Etna, besides the last week with stages 18-20, there is not more than two days in a row of 'effort' for the general classification riders. It's sporadic and this will make for aggressive racing throughout."
Mitchelton-Scott for the 2018 Giro d'Italia: Esteban Chaves, Simon Yates, Sam Bewley, Jack Haig, Chris Juul-Jensen, Roman Kreuziger, Mikel Nieve, Svein Tuft.