• The face of Australia's World Tour squad has become more cosmopolitan. (L-R) Adam Yates, Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates. (Getty)Source: Getty
Now regularly competing for the top step of the podium at Grand Tours, the Mitchelton-Scott men's team is a very different beast to the Australian dominated set-up at its debut in 2012.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
1 Jun 2018 - 12:21 PM  UPDATED 1 Jun 2018 - 12:27 PM

Heraclitus of Ephesus put forward the notion circa 500 BCE that change is the only constant in life and resisting change is a sort of death in itself. By this measure, it’s been a bountiful time at Mitchelton-Scott over the past several years.

Rather than Matt Goss and Simon Gerrans leading the way for results, it’s a pair of British riders and a Colombian that are the team’s protected riders in the biggest races.

Rather than stick with a focus on the one-day classics and shorter stage races, it’s off to the high mountains for the Giro, Tour and Vuelta.

The approach has necessitated a change in personnel, approach and culture. Building the squad into one that has shown it can win a Grand Tour hasn’t been a quick process.

Mitchelton-Scott's winning weekend
Mitchelton-Scott capped off its five victory and maglia rosa stint at this year's Giro d'Italia with a weekend of wins from its men's and women's squads across Europe. Plus an impressive finish at Paris-Roubaix Espoirs.

Mitchelton-Scott’s General Manager Shayne Bannan sat down with Cycling Central, before the emotional rollercoaster the Giro turned into for the squad, to talk about the development of the organisation.

"It's an evolution of the team,” said Bannan, “we are an Australian team by DNA, but we're a global team more importantly and we're about performing at a high level.

“We'll select any rider no matter what country they are from, so long as they fit in with our structure and culture.”

The team began life in 2012 with 17 Australians (plus two New Zealanders) out of a 30-man roster, an almost comical sight when they showed up to dominate the front of the national championships. It’s a more proportionate representation of 10 Australians now, in line with more nationally-focused teams like Quick-Step Floors (nine Belgian riders) and Movistar (14 Spanish riders).

“We did start with a lot more Australians and I think that's normal,” said Bannan. “We did register in Australia and we were looking to capture the interest of the Australian public.

“The way we raced was an Australian style of racing, but now we're becoming more focused on specifics. So, more focus on general classifications, getting riders for leadout trains and that means we have to look globally."

Part of that recruitment program has seen established high-quality riders like Mikel Nieve and Roman Kreuziger brought in to support the general classification stars on the roster but arguably the squad’s biggest success has been the way it has identified young talent and developed those riders into winners.

"We're pretty excited about the young guys we're developing within the team,” said Bannan. “The Yates brothers, Caleb (Ewan), Esteban (Chaves)... then there's guys like Jack Haig, Lucas Hamilton, these guys are future stars as well.

The goal in all this is to take that top step on the podium of one of the Grand Tours. Agonisingly close with Chaves at the 2016 Giro d’Italia and with Simon Yates just days ago, Mitchelton-Scott has progressed from a team that goes in with the expectation of a stage win or two, to one of the favourites.

"Let's be clear, nobody puts us under more pressure than the riders within the team and the team itself,” said Bannan. “External pressure isn't something that comes into our mind. We think of the processes necessary to achieve a result. Now, it's a competitive world out there, winning a Grand Tour isn't an easy thing to do.”

"As long as we are seeing progression from our riders that's all we can ask for. We certainly have ambitions and we'd love to see one of our riders up there."

Listen to the Zwift Podcast review of the Giro and preview of the Critérium du Dauphiné:

The increasingly cosmopolitan Mitchelton-Scott is not stopping their focus at mining the established world of cycling, looking also to China as a long-term potential partner into the future.

“We've got the Chinese continental team set up, registered out of China,” said Bannan. "One of the main reasons that we are entering China is that we see so much potential from a sporting point of view and also from a commercial point of view.

“To assist in and work so closely with the Chinese Cycling Federation, with the development of road cycling in that region is quite exciting for us.”

Sun Hung Kai Properties executive director Adam Kwok shapes as a key player in the region, with the Hong Kong-based businessman investing in the Continental team, Mitchelton-BikeExchange and being hosted by Mitchelton-Scott owner Gerry Ryan during the Herald Sun Tour.

He’s a keen cyclist and has also been key in the organisation of local events, including a charity ride event and a UCI 1.1 level race, both run in Hong Kong.

It’s all part of a general expansion of cycling events in Asia, despite the demise of the Tour of Beijing in 2014. Recent years have seen the Tour of Guangxi jump straight to WorldTour status and a host of lesser UCI racesrun at an impressive level of organisation.

"I think if you have a look at the Asian calendar over the last five years, there’s a definite increase in the quality of races,” said Bannan. “Purely based on numbers - China has the largest population in the world - if we can get even a small part of China interested in cycling we're of the belief that a strong future for cycling in China will mean a strong future for cycling globally.

“That's not going happen today or tomorrow, we're talking about a five to ten-year evolution."

Part of Adam Kwok’s desire to form a partnership with Mitchelton-Scott is to play a role in fostering the development of the first star Chinese rider. In a statement from a Mitchelton-Scott press release, Kwok indicated a shared goal of the support was rider development.

“My support stems from this vision and I hope to be able to help future generations of cycling talent in China and of course including my home city Hong Kong, a country yet to have a UCI WorldTour level contender and national hero on the world stage.”

Bannan is playing a key role in the process, liaising with Chinese Cycling Association head coach Shen Jinkang to identify and develop top talents through the Michelton-BikeExchange program.

"It would be fantastic to have a Chinese rider in the WorldTour,” said Bannan, “again will it be one year or five? It depends on the level of the guys coming through. We'll have a progressive race program for the guys coming through, so we'll see how they develop."

Present day Mitchelton-Scott is a long way removed from its 2012 beginnings and the next years promise more change for the once quintessentially Australian squad. Bannan outlined where the team would be a decade into the future.

"In an ideal world, we are still a World Tour team in ten years' time. We're still engaging with fans, still helping riders on their pathway, still having success and we've assisted China in becoming a great cycling nation along the way." 

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