Mitchelton-Scott battled throughout Opening Weekend but only had Matteo Trentin's top 10 place in Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to show for it after the Italian crashed both there and at Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. The European road champion failed to finish the latter race as his former team Deceuninck-QuickStep dominated both races with wins for Zdenek Stybar and Bob Jungels, respectively.
Alongside Trentin for the WorldTour team at both races was Luke Durbridge. The Australian made the front groups on both days, and looked to set up Trentin at every possibility.
"We've had some bad luck this weekend," Durbridge told Cyclingnews at the conclusion of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. "Matteo has had two crashes. He came in with really good form, and even when we brought it back to 30 seconds for him today, he crashed. We've made some really good splits, but have just been really unlucky.
"For me personally, I've made both front groups and I've tried to help Matteo. Opening Weekend is Opening Weekend. You can overanalyse it, and if you're going well and you get results, then it's great, but if it doesn't go well, then it's not the end of the world. These are just the first races, and it's a completely different sport to racing in the sun in Spain or at the Tour Down Under. You come up here and you think, 'Whoa – this is real cycling.' It's nice to rip the Band Aid off, and we'll go from there."
Trentin came into Opening Weekend on the back of a fantastic start to the season with a stage win at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and two stage victories at the Ruta del Sol. However, the Italian was unable to make the main split on Sunday when Bob Jungels dragged a group with him over the cobbles.
That meant that Mitchelton had to try to bring the race back together with the aid of the sprinters' teams. It almost looked possible, but when Trentin fell with around 25km to go, there was a moment of hesitation and all hope was effectively lost.
"When the five guys went away, I was alone in working with Lotto Soudal and I was never going to bring back those five considering how strong they were going, so we decided to sit up and wait for our team to come over with Bora-Hansgrohe and Jumbo-Visma," Durbridge explained.
"Then, when Trentin crashed, there was a bit of confusion. We heard on the radio and stopped working two or three kilometres later, but that was it. The guys were in position, and that's all we could hope for."
Along with winning both races, Deceuninck-QuickStep also posted three riders in the top 10 of each event over the weekend. They were head and shoulders above the rest, with Stybar and Jungels both benefiting from support riders constantly blocking their rivals from chasing. It was an ominous sign for the rest of the campaign.
Durbridge acknowledged the Belgian team's strength and pointed out that other teams need to raise their game before the Classics return in full swing later this month.
"It's their race and their home," he said. "They come here ready to race, and they're passionate about it. There's something to be said for confidence and knowing that they can do it. When teams get on a roll, they seem to win everywhere and they have that mentality. They're a class act. Everyone has to raise their game to be like them. Hopefully we can get better and better, and be like that, too."
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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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