Despite establishing himself as one of Chris Froome’s most trusted domestiques over the past few years, Mikel Nieve has explained that his move to Orica-Scott will help him avoid stagnation, with fresh challenges and a different style of riding.
“Words can’t describe how much I’ll mist ‘Frosty’ next year,” wrote Froome on social media after Nieve’s move to Orica-Scott was announced. The Spaniard had been by the Sky leader’s side as he won the Tour de France in 2016 and as he did the Tour-Vuelta double this year.
“That a rider like him recognises you and thanks you publicly in that way, it means a lot, and I told him that personally. I’ve shared a lot of races with him and I have great memories,” said Nieve in an interview published by his management. “It was special to reach Paris with him in yellow, even more so this year winning the teams classification, and in Madrid [at the Vuelta] too. On the final day you have that satisfaction of having worked for that victory and you feel like you had a small part in it.”
Nieve began his career with five seasons at the Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi squad, during which he claimed stage wins and top 10 overall finishes in Grand Tours. Since joining Sky in 2014, he had seemingly found his feet as a pure domestique, but now feels the need for a fresh focus.
“At the end of the day, it has been four years of doing the same job, and I think that a change could do me good, above all for the motivation, taking on new challenges,” said Nieve. “Maybe always doing the same thing becomes more tiresome and takes more out of you. It’s fresh motivation.”
Nieve, at 33, will still largely fulfil domestique duties at Orica, who boast Esteban Chaves and the Yates twins – Adam and Simon – in their Grand Tour arsenal. However, as well as acting as something of a mentor to those younger riders, he is looking forward to the different style of racing.
“Yes, we have leaders for the Grand Tours, but it’s maybe not the style of racing of Team Sky," he said. "At Sky you almost always have the strongest leader, and much of the responsibility falls on you in the race. Here, maybe it will be a case of doing things differently. At times it will fall on me to ride like I did at Sky, but at other times we will look for alternatives and different options, maybe with a little more freedom.”
Nieve believes that, if Orica’s leaders are at their best, a Grand Tour victory is possible in the coming seasons. As for himself, at 33 he feels he still has a lot left in the tank, and would like a victory of his own - a stage win at the Tour de France would complete a full set of Grand Tour stage wins.
“From year to year I’ve kept my level. And I can see that by doing things in the right way, my body responds. I hope to carry on like that for a few years until my time comes. For the moment I’m in a good place, with the hunger to carry on,” he said.
“I would like to win a Grand Tour stage again, and if it’s in the Tour then even better. It would be the icing on the cake, a victory that would mean a lot. Any victory, wherever it is but above all in a Grand Tour, would mean a lot to me.”