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2021 Team Preview: GreenEdge Cycling

during stage ten of the 2016 Le Tour de Frane a 197km stage from Escaldes-Engordany to Revel on July 12, 2016 in Revel, France.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

GreenEdge have been in the WorldTour peloton since 2012, winning Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia, as well as claiming overall victory in the 2018 Vuelta a España through Simon Yates. The team have always had a strong spine of Australian riders, but the Yates brothers and Esteban Chaves have led the line in the Grand Tours over the years.

After the collapse of Manuela Fundación’s bid to buy the team’s naming rights last summer, founding manager Shayne Bannan and Alvaro Crespi left and were replaced by Brent Copeland and Darach McQuaid. Gerry Ryan, who has bankrolled the team since their inception, has confirmed that he will continue his backing for another two years.

Manager: Brent Copeland

Squad size: 27

Average age: 28.9

How did they fare in 2020?

Wins: 16

WorldTour ranking: 11th

Mitchelton-Scott made headlines during the long hiatus from racing due to the confused messaging around Manuela Fundación’s putative arrival as title sponsor – a June press release detailing the new team kit and branding remains on the GreenEdge website – as well as the departures of Bannan and Crespi, but it looked as though business would resume as normal when the season restarted in August.

Simon Yates had built his campaign around the Giro d’Italia, and he looked a potential winner when he cruised to victory at Tirreno-Adriatico and then delivered a fine display in the corsa rosa’s opening time trial. A week later, he was forced out of the race after being diagnosed with COVID-19, and the entire Mitchelton-Scott squad followed suit a few days later.

That setback obviously compromised the team’s entire season, but there were still bright moments, most notably Adam Yates’ four days in yellow at the Tour de France and his overall victory at the UAE Tour in February. Lucas Hamilton highlighted his quality with a fine stage win at Cascia at Tirreno-Adriatico, and he was climbing well at the Giro before his team was forced out.

The loss of Adam Yates to Ineos is a blow for 2021, as is Jack Haig’s departure to Bahrain Victorious, though GreenEdge have compensated with an ambitious signing of their own. During the Tour, it was confirmed that Michael Matthews would re-join the team after a four-year stint at Sunweb.

Key riders

Simon Yates: Although coronavirus ruined his Giro challenge, Yates still came away from 2020 with Tirreno-Adriatico victory and a podium finish at the Tour de Pologne. In 2021, he will look to combine his medal ambitions at the Tokyo Olympics with a tilt at either the maglia rosa or the maillot jaune. Although a new generation of stage racing talent has emerged, the 2018 Vuelta winner is more than capable of adding another Grand Tour to his palmarès.

Michael Matthews: The 30-year-old is one of the most versatile riders in the peloton, capable of competing in bunch sprints, uphill finales and both the cobbled Classics and the Ardennes. He has won stages in all three Grand Tours, won the green jersey at the Tour and has twice finished on the podium at the Worlds. Yet despite that imposing resumé, it’s hard to shake the sense that his palmarès doesn’t yet match his considerable talents. He will hope to remedy that anomaly in his second coming at GreenEdge.

Lucas Hamilton: The Australian turned professional in 2018 after a fine amateur career. He has progressed quietly but steadily in the intervening period, placing 25th in his debut Giro in 2019. He looked on course for better in 2020, only for his team’s withdrawal. He will surely have been inspired by what his contemporary and former Mitchelton-Scott Continental teammate Jai Hindley (Sunweb) went on to achieve in Italy in October.

Mikel Nieve: Voted the best domestique in the peloton in a Cyclingnews poll in April, Nieve rode in support of Adam Yates at the Tour de France, only to be forced out in the third week by injuries picked up in crashes during the race. He returned in time for the Vuelta a España, battling his way to 13th overall. He will be a key support rider for Simon Yates in 2021. 

Strengths

In Simon Yates, GreenEdge have one of the outstanding talents in the peloton and, at 28, the Briton should be entering his prime. He has endured setbacks in his tilts at the overall classification in a Grand Tour since winning the 2018 Vuelta, but he always packs a punch, as testified by his brace of stage wins on the 2019 Tour, which he rode in support of his brother Adam.

The signing of Michael Matthews, meanwhile, brings a new dimension to a squad that had shifted its emphasis firmly to the Grand Tours over the past two seasons. Although not a pure sprinter, Matthews is quick enough to pick up some of the wins GreenEdge have been missing out on since Caleb Ewan left in 2019, while he also gives the squad a focal point in the Classics. After wins at the GP de Québec, GP de Montréal and Bretagne Classic in recent years, Matthews will hope to land a big Spring win in 2021.

The development of Hamilton will be worth following closely, while the squad, as ever, possesses one of the strongest engine rooms in the WorldTour, with riders like Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn, Brent Bookwalter, Mikel Nieve and Damien Howson offering strength on a variety of terrains.

Weaknesses

The departures of Adam Yates and Jack Haig severely diminishes GreenEdge’s cadre of climbers and means the squad is increasingly reliant on Simon Yates in both week-long and three-week stage races. Hamilton may pick up some of the slack in time, but Esteban Chaves has never recovered the sparkle of 2016 with any consistency, though he has won a brace of Giro stages in the meantime.

Matthews and, to a lesser extent, Luka Mezgec, provide speed and the ability to pick up wins, but the squad doesn’t possess an out-and-out sprinter. Although Luke Durbridge has obvious potential on the cobbles, the onus will be on Matthews to lead the line in March and April. A perennial challenger at Milan-San Remo, he was also a solid 6th in his Tour of Flanders debut in 2019, and it will be fascinating to see how he manages his Spring objectives in his second tenure at GreenEdge.

Verdict

The team's depth is not in question, but the losses of leaders like Adam Yates and Jack Haig will be keenly felt. The success of GreenEdge's season looks set to rest largely on how Simon Yates and Michael Matthews fare.

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