Nieve returns at Romandie as Giro d’Italia responsibilities loom

Basque climber on his move from Team Sky to Mitchelton-Scott

Mikel Nieve made his long-awaited stage racing debut for Mitchelton-Scott at the Tour de Romandie on Tuesday, as he looks to rediscover his climbing legs before the Giro d’Italia.

The former Team Sky rider moved to Mitchelton-Scott for 2018 and was due to race in March. However, a training crash left him with two hairline fractures in his hip. He missed both the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco as a result, before finally making his season debut at Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday.

The Tour de Romandie, with its varied terrain, will be Nieve’s first stage race since last year’s Vuelta a Espana, and his continued recovery is centred around finding form for the Giro d’Italia, where he will line up as Esteban Chaves’ key mountain domestique.

“I had a bad crash. I was in Sierra Nevada, preparing for Catalunya and Pais Basque, but I had two fissures in my hip from the fall. That meant that I had to stop for a few days. It wasn’t ideal preparation for the Giro d’Italia but now I’m here, and I’ll try and do my best,” Nieve told Cyclingnews ahead of Romandie’s prologue, in which he would go on to finish 105th.

“I was off the bike for a while but could slowly start to progress, going from half an hour, to an hour, to an hour and a half. I lost a lot of good training days though.

“I’m not too bad. I’ve had a good training block and Liege was my first race back. I hope to improve this week, and we’ll see where I am by Sunday. I’m here to get my race pace back, build up some form and get ready for the Giro. I want to arrive at the Giro in the best possible shape. I need to see where I am during this race though. I might feel okay but it’s different when you actually start racing, and start comparing yourself to other guys. Maybe at the Giro I can take the first week easier, but we’ll have to see.”

A new motivation

Nieve was one of the few specialist climbers on the transfer market in 2017. Now 33, he had a number of options on the table at the end of last season, but he selected Mitchelton-Scott as his next destination, after four successful years with Team Sky.

“This team explained the plan they had for me, and I really liked it. I know a few of the guys and the staff here but sometimes in your career it’s good to change. It helps you find new motivation, and helps you start again,” he said.

The transfer signified only Nieve’s second WorldTour move in his career, having spent the majority of his time in the professional ranks at Euskaltel. When asked if the vibe and atmosphere in Mitchelton-Scott was similar to the now defunct Basque WorldTour team, Nieve replied: “I don’t think it’s like Euskaltel. That was a smaller team, but sure it’s relaxed here. It was at Team Sky too, but I’m happy here. The team supported me 100 per cent after my crash and I hope to be here for a number of years. This is just the second time I’ve been on the team bus though, so it’s a still a little new to me."

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