While it's been a turbulent time for Mitchelton-Scott of late, with the announcement of a new main sponsor subsequently quashed, but with members of the management team nevertheless replaced, the Australian WorldTour team has the opportunity to get back on an even keel once racing resumes, and the Tour de France is the opportunity to really shine.
Eight riders will line up for each team in Nice on August 29, and Cyclingnews has put together a list of the 10 leading riders said to be on the team's long-list. GC contenders Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves, and experienced domestiques Mikel Nieve and Luke Durbridge, are surely shoo-ins for the final selection, but that leaves six riders to 'battle' it out for the final four places.
Cyclingnews takes a closer look at the 10 riders in contention here.
- Age: 27
- Tours raced: 4
- Top result: 4th overall, 2016
You can't fluke a fourth-place finish in the world's biggest bike race, but there's no getting away from the fact that Yates' Grand Tour GC results are less than stellar when looking at the entirety of his career. His fourth-place finish and white jersey in 2016 were followed by ninth at the Giro d'Italia, and while the subsequent four displays over three weeks have mitigating circumstances – in that he was sometimes riding for others – the last two results at the Tour have been below expectations.
To prevent a hat-trick of misfires, Yates will need to time his preparation better than before, but the route itself suits elements of his characteristics and, with a high-calibre support act, Yates has the platform to prosper. Until Yates replicates his result from 2016, he will face legitimate questions over whether he's a potential three-week winner or an exceptional racer who just can't quite excel in one area.
Heading to Nice, Yates remains the team's main priority and only truly protected rider.
- Age: 30
- Tours raced: 1
- Best result: 62nd overall, 2017
Three or four years ago, the prospect of Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves lining up at the Tour de France would have set pulses racing, but it's not 2016 and Chaves' Grand Tour credentials have been dented by a string of illnesses and injuries. His Giro stage win last season provided enough evidence that the 30-year-old was still a combative force in the mountains, but he will head to the Tour as back-up for Yates and a potential plan B if the team needs to revert to chasing stage wins over the GC.
A Tour de France stage win would complete his Grand Tour set, and there are plenty of stages in the race that have the ideal terrain for the tenacious little Colombian. If he and Yates can rediscover their best form, then they would represent a mouth-watering double act.
- Age: 36
- Tours raced: 5
- Best result: 12th overall, 2013
He may be 36, but there are few better mountain domestiques in the WorldTour, with Chris Froome rumoured to be interested in bringing the Basque rider to whichever team he ends up at for 2021. Those plans are over for the time being after team owner Gerry Ryan stumped up enough cash to see the squad through another year, but Nieve is, without doubt, an upgrade on Roman Kreuziger, who left just before the former Euskaltel rider joined.
Nieve has been a loyal domestique everywhere he's been, but, like Chaves, he needs a Tour stage win to complete his set. The first priority, however, will be to protect Yates in the mountains, and there are few better shields. Nieve is consistent, never moans or rocks the boat, and always delivers for his leader. If Mitchelton-Scott could clone him, they would.
- Age: 27
- Tours raced: 2
- Best result: 88th overall, 2017
The Australian doesn't have the experience of Nieve but, at 27, he's no spring chicken, either, with seven Grand Tours under his belt. Not a prolific winner, he has carved a niche for himself as a solid mountain domestique with an eye for a break.
Should he be selected for the Tour, and it's highly likely, then Howson will ride for Yates and be a vital cog before Nieve is called into action. In some ways, it's a more important role than Nieve's because the longer Howson can soak up pressure on the front, the longer Nieve can be kept in reserve for when it matters.
- Age: 35
- Tours raced: 7
- Best result: 1 stage win, 2019
The all-rounder has missed just one Tour de France since 2012, and his impressive run shows no signs of ending just yet. The 35-year-old wore the maillot jaune in 2013 and won a stage last year into Brioude, but it's his general versatility that makes him so crucial for Mitchelton-Scott. He can work on the flat, survive the medium mountains, dictate tactics, and offer a threat from either a small break or a reduced-bunch sprint.
- Age: 30
- Tours raced: 2
- Best result: 112th overall, 2019
Going back-to-back with Grand Tours in Italy and France last season will stand the Dane in good stead this season when he could potentially be called upon to ride both the Tour de France and then a second three-week race.
His experience makes the 30-year-old a strong candidate for a place at the Tour, and with no Matteo Trentin this year, following the Italian's move to CCC for 2020, the team will see Juul-Jensen as a potential breakaway star. His fine win in the rain at the Tour de Suisse a couple of years ago was a timely reminder of the calibre of engine Juul-Jensen possesses.
- Age: 35
- Tours raced: 5
- Best result: 105th overall, 2017
Jack Bauer rode the Giro d'Italia last year, but the New Zealander is a strong candidate for a Tour de France place this time around. Not only can he do a good job over the three weeks, but he can also use the experience to hone his form for the 'spring' Classics later in the year. You know what you get with Bauer – a no-nonsense domestique who can ride on the front for hours on end and drop back to the team car when required.
- Age: 29
- Tours raced: 6
- Best result: 109th overall, 2019
The Australian has raced every Tour de France since 2014 and is one of the first names that head sport director Matt White will note down when it comes to his final eight-man selection. Durbridge, like Bauer, adds cover on the flat roads and can take care of climbers like Yates when the fight for position hots up.
There's no flat time trial in the Tour this year but, again, like Bauer, the Australian can use the Tour to find his form before the Classics. The 29-year-old is out of contract at the end of the year but it's unlikely he'll leave, and it's even more unlikely that he'll miss the Tour.
- Age: 28
- Tours raced: 2
- Best result: 117th overall, 2018
This one might be touch and go. Hepburn – who has ridden the last two Tours – could count himself unlucky if he misses out on a third straight outing, but with Bauer, Durbridge, Impey and Juul-Jensen, the team might decide on making room for a rider with a bit more punch than the Australian. He's a fine domestique and has finished every Grand Tour (six in all) that he's started, but the Mitchelton-Scott engine room is already stacked with talent. It's a tough call and could simply come down to last-minute form.
- Age: 32
- Tours raced: 0
- Best result: N/A
The Slovenian once again finds himself on the Tour de France long list, but his chances of selection this time around have increased due to the departure of Matteo Trentin in the off-season. The pair were not like-for-like, but they both provided something different for a team that intentionally focused on GC.
Mezgec, 32, isn't a breakaway specialist, and he's won just a single Grand Tour stage, but he can mix it with the best on his day, as his two stage wins showed at the Tour de Pologne almost 12 months ago. If he returns to racing and picks up a couple of early wins, it will be increasingly difficult for Mitchelton to leave him at home.
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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