Albasini and Howson head up Mitchelton-Scott hopes at Romandie

Mitchelton-Scott go into Tuesday's Tour de Romandie fielding a strong team that will work for Damien Howson's GC hopes and Michael Albasini's quest to nab stage wins at the Swiss stage race.

New Zealander Sam Bewley gets the show on the road as the team's first man off for Tuesday's 3.87km prologue time trial around Neuchâtel, while Albasini can expect plenty of home support, and will be Mitchelton's last man away for the individual TT.

"I'm always motivated when I go to a race, but in a home race of course you want show yourself and give a good performance," Albasini said on the team's website. "It's a mix between extra motivation and extra pressure.

"Even though I've had a good run in the past in Romandie, I can't just expect to win, so I don't feel that I missed out by not winning last season. It's a WorldTour event at the highest level, so winning is hard," continued Albasini, who has nevertheless won seven stages at the race over the past five years, with three of those having come in 2014 alone.

"I just start every year with a blank sheet of paper. The aim is to win a stage, but, like I said, it's not easy and there are lots of riders hoping to do the same," he said.

Sports director Laurenzo Lapage is well aware of what Albasini's presence brings to the team, both in terms of potential success and the fan support the squad can expect to enjoy.

"It's definitely a race that suits this team. We've gone well there in the past, and especially with 'Alba' around the team, we get a lot of support during the week," he said.

"The plan is for 'Damo' [Howson] to have a crack at the overall. He's been climbing well and had a strong performance at the Coppi e Bartali," continued Lapage, referring to the Australian's second place overall at the Italian stage race in late March.

"Alba will be hunting for stages, but we also have options with the other guys in the squad. But it's a tough one, and let's hope the good weather stays on our side, because bad weather there can make the race really hard."

The start of Romandie signals the start of the rest of the season, with the spring Classics all now behind us. Many riders' thoughts now turn to the imminent Giro d'Italia (May 11-June 2), while, for others, the Tour de France is not too much further on the horizon, with many of the contenders racing at either Romandie or at the Tour de Yorkshire this week.

Mitchelton-Scott for the 2019 Tour de Romandie: Michael Albasini, Sam Bewley, Tsgabu Grmay, Damien Howson, Cameron Meyer, Callum Scotson, Dion Smith

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