Young guns shine as Mitchelton-SCOTT wrap up La Vuelta a España
Mitchelton-SCOTT wrapped up La Vuelta a España in Madrid today with a third top-10 stage finish for Australian youngster Rob Stannard and a 13th place overall for Basque climber Mikel Nieve.
The squad leaves Spain with a third-place stage finish for New Zealander Dion Smith, his best Grand Tour stage finish, and impressive performances for the team’s youth with Callum Scotson and Stannard active in five strong breakaways in their debut appearances.
It was a brutal start to the third Grand Tour of the season as La Vuelta kicked-off with three back-to-back mountain stages. Colombian Esteban Chaves was in the mix from day one, climbing with the general classification contenders on his way to a strong fourth place on the opening day of action.
The 30-year-old again finished with the best climbers in the peloton on stage two before an untimely mechanical in the finale of stage three cost him time. However, the former La Vuelta podium finisher battled on over the course of the first week and held seventh overall until eventually falling away on stage 11.
Grand Tour debutants Stannard and Scotson impressed throughout the 18 days of racing, with the former making it into four breakaways and taking three top-10 finishes. The 22-year-old grabbed his first top-10 of the race in the sprint finish to stage nine before backing up his performance with an impressive fifth place the next day.
While he wasn’t in contention for stage honours, Scotson proved his worth with a number of strong rides as he guided his teammates around the peloton and into position stage after stage.
Up The Road
27-year-old Smith and Australian Nick Schultz also had stand out rides as they infiltrated several breakaways. Smith capitalised on the form that saw him win the Coppa Sabatini in September as he sprinted to third place in the reduced kick for the line on a punishing stage 16.
Schultz made it up the road on numerous occasions, including the large escape group on the penultimate stage of the race.
Veteran Nieve was taking part in the 20th Grand Tour of his career and the 36-year-old proved his worth once again as he climbed into the top-10 overall on stage 11 before dropping to 13th after the stage 13 time trial.
That’s where the Basque rider remained for the rest of the race as he completed his 19th Grand Tour, taking his 16th top-20 finish in the process.
Rob Stannard (9th, Stage 18):
"We came late with a lot of power, it was Callum, Edmo and Schultzie they gave me a really good lead out into the last corner and we were probably top-10 going around that last corner. Then I had Edmo with me after that, he did an amazing lead out.
"I just lost a few positions going through the chicane and I sprinted a bit late, I think. But it was really good practice for me, I guess. I don’t really consider myself as a pure bunch sprinter, so to be able to contest that sort of finish is really good for me.
"Every time I do a sprint like that against those guys I’m learning and taking stuff away that I can use to get better for next time. So, I’m happy and I’m happy to have finished the Vuelta and my first Grand Tour."
"I feel a bit mixed. I came from the Tour with injury and I started with some doubts, but I started better than expected. But in the last days I was not as a I wanted, so it’s been difficult. But I think the important thing is that I’ve been consistent again, I’ve been close with the best.
"The younger riders were really good, Rob and Callum, they impressed me. For their first Grand Tour, already they were fighting for stages or taking control of the race. It’s been really good to see how they worked.
"Maybe we don’t have the result that we hoped for, but I think that the way that we worked and everything has been the way you need to be to win."
Julian Dean (Sports Director):
"It’s been a really good Vuelta, we came here with objectives of trying to win a stage and finish top-10 overall. We’ve come shy of both those targets by a little bit, but I think for me, the shining light has been has been some of the young guys and what we’ve seen and how they’ve ridden this Vuelta, particularly Rob Stannard and Callum Scotson.
"They’re very exciting prospects for the future, in the last week they’ve both been super strong. Callum had fantastic ride today. So I think we can be confident going forward that we can place those two guys in any of the Grand Tours and they’ll be able to compete. They're only going to get stronger from here."
La Vuelta a España - Stage 18 Results:
1. Pascal Ackermann (BORA – hansgrohe) 3:28:13
2. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck - Quick Step) ST
3. Max Kanter (Team Sunweb) ST
9. Rob Stannard (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
La Vuelta – General Classification:
1. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) 72:46:12
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +0:24
3. Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) +0:47
13. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +14:47