Mitchelton-Scott's comeback from the dashing of their general classification hopes in this year's Tour de France showed no sign of letting up on Wednesday as Matteo Trentin claimed the Australian team's fourth win of the race and third in a week on stage 17 with a solo break to Gap.
Before the Pyrenees the team had already celebrated South African Daryl Impey's win from a break in Saint-Etienne. But the subsequent collapse of Adam Yates' GC bid was also preceded and followed by two stage victories for his brother and teammate Simon in the mountains. Then on Wednesday's stage 17 it was Trentin's turn to shine.
The Italian had played an important role in softening up the opposition for Simon on his first Pyrenean stage. But in Gap, Trentin was able to claim his third Tour de France win after victories in 2014 and 2015 and his eighth Grand Tour stage of this career in his own right, too.
"We had already got already two victories before Adam went out of GC," Trentin told reporters. "So we were already on a good path.
"Then straightaway after Adam lost time we all sat together on the team bus and agreed that it's not over. None of my teammates had come to the Tour in poor condition, we had lots of riders who could go for stage wins and I think we came back from a difficult situation in a really good way."
It wasn't just Mitchelton-Scott. For Trentin, too, his stage win in the Tour represented a kind of comeback after a year that started off well with stage wins in Andalucia and Valencia, but then seemed to circle 'round the bullseye in the Classics, including a 10th place in Milano-Sanremo and Amstel Gold, without ever hitting the target full on.
It was a similar story in the Tour until Wednesday, as Trentin had notched up no less than six top-10 results, the closest a third place in Colmar, before taking the win in Gap.
As the last transition stage, Gap represented his best and probably last chance of success in the 2018 race, and Trentin said he was up for the effort.
"Today was all in – everything or nothing. I was always up there in this Tour but never got the results. This win makes up for it all. I had good legs but never finished it off," he said.
"It was the same thing in the Classics, simply that these days in bike racing you have to be at 100 per cent, even when you're at 99 per cent it can't always work out. It's very frustrating, and sometimes I made mistakes, too. That one per cent in form can make an enormous difference."
On Wednesday, though, it all came out well for Trentin as he managed not only to make it into the break of the day, but also his decisive solo attack on the slopes of the Col de las Sentinelle, 12 kilometres from the line, worked out perfectly.
"There was a headwind on the climb, but I got up it well," he said. "I was scared of [Deceuninck-QuickStep's Kasper] Asgreen. He was the most dangerous rider there, and I was right because he finished second," Trentin explain.
"Asgreen's tactic was to wait and wait, and so I went for it because he's also strong on the climbs and fast in a sprint."
Trentin was not the only Mitchelton-Scott rider in the break, though, and he said that the presence of teammate Christopher Juul Jensen proved critical.
"I agreed with Chris to cover the moves and then wait for me to jump across. But when I saw some top guys going, I went across myself, tried to split again. That didn't work, so I rode away without really attacking. I got a 10-second advantage, and that meant I could go at my own pace on the climb. I was scared it might come back, but then from the top of the Sentinelle it was all in. All or nothing."
Trentin rounded out his press conference with a lengthy analysis of racing as a cyclo-crosser and whether riding in other disciplines helped road racers, something he concluded was the case. His own success was not just evidence, he pointed out.
"I wrote a bit of a provocative Tweet about that earlier this year about that subject because in Italy, outside road racing, the other specialities do get neglected," Trentin said. "I'm not saying that strong riders won't come through if they are good enough in their own right.
"But for young riders, it's good to do things like 'cross. I did it back in the day when I was younger. I got third in one World Cup, although only with small teams. The bigger ones in Italy weren't interested."
As proof of the benefits of other disciplines, Trentin claimed that roughly half of this year's Tour stage winners have at some point in the past or present practiced another speciality that isn't road-racing "whether it's 'cross or MTB or track".
"And more directors of U-23 teams in Italy should appreciate this," he said. "It's depressing when you see 80 or 90 youngsters doing a 'cross race, then that number of participants halves in the higher categories and finally halves again into nothing. Italian cycling is overly ignorant about other disciplines that aren't road racing – and that's not good."
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