Mitchelton-Scott say they were not surprised by Esteban Chaves' gutsy performance on the upper slopes of the Picón Blanco summit finish of stage 3 in the Vuelta a Burgos - nor by the Australian squad's domination of the final climb.
The Australian team made much of the running both in the last hour, making serious inroads into the breakaway's lead, and again on the vital middle segment of the nine-kilometre ascent, with Simon Yates, Mikel Nieve and Jack Haig all prominent on the front.
After Mitchelton-Scott's mass manouvre shed both last year's winner Ivan Sosa (Ineos) and Spanish contender Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Chaves himself launched two stinging attacks.
While the Colombian finally had to settle for fourth behind Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep), George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren), coupled with his strong ride on Tuesday's uphill finish, Chaves' performance left the team feeling the glass was half-full, not half-empty. There's still Lagunas de Neila - where Chaves took a breakthrough win in 2012 when he was still with Colombia-Coldeportes - to come.
"We saw this was a good race to prepare for goals in the future and if we hadn't chased when we did maybe they could have stayed away for the stage win. So we took the race by the scruff of its neck and gave Esteban every chance for a stage result and he gave it a good try," Mitchelton-Scott's team manager Matt White told Cyclingnews.
"Lockdown or not, you can see how hard people have been working, and Esteban has benefited from being in Colombia for nearly nine months now, and being able to work very hard at home."
"All the things that can disrupt training with travel and changing continents, he's been at home and been very consistent. So it's a nice start to his adjusted campaign for 2020."
Simon Yates' role, White explained, was not to try his own GC bid, but rather to soften up the terrain for Chaves and a possible stage win. "We needed to string the bunch out and when Simon attacks, not too many people can follow. The gap on the leaders at that point was still 2:50 with five kilometres, so it was time to go. We had to make that move to go for the stage. So he got on the front, we got into a bit of a rhythm of bringing that break back."
As the fallout settles on stage 3, the gap between the four top favourites on GC is still only 35 seconds, so there's certainly everything to play for on Saturday. Although Chaves is the worst placed of the top four, White says he's not ruling anything out.
"There are no time bonuses along the road, and Saturday's is a lot steadier, with fewer steeper sections but fewer faster bits as well. And it's a climb Esteban knows well, so why not? We'll try to put Remco under pressure."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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