Mitchelton-Scott united in Giro challenge

The Australian-based team has a pair of leaders — Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves — atop the GC standings.

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Mitchelton-Scott vows to race against its rivals and not against each other as the Australian team enters the second half of the Giro d’Italia sitting atop the leaderboard.

Simon Yates will start the Giro’s longest stage Tuesday with a promising lead over his direct rivals. His closest challenger is teammate and second-place rider Esteban Chaves, who is 32 seconds back.

Both insist the goal is to win the pink jersey so long as it is someone in Mitchelton-Scott colors. [related title=”More Giro d’Italia news” align=”left” tag=”Giro-d’Italia”]

“We want to win the race as a team,” Yates said on Monday’s rest day. “If it’s necessary to make the sacrifice for the team, we’ll do it. Right now, we’re in an ideal situation.”

“Number one is Mitchelton, not Simon Yates or Esteban Chaves,” the Colombian Chaves told the Spanish daily AS. “Our goal is to win the Giro with one or the other. We are good friends, and we won’t start fighting.”

Mitchelton-Scott has emerged as the strongest all-around team in the first half of the Giro. Behind its two leaders, the Aussie squad brings a solid mix of climbers and rouleurs to defend the pink jersey.

Yates used his explosiveness to pepper the first half of the race with pointed attacks to gain time bonuses. His emphatic victory at Gran Sasso confirmed him as the favorite going into the second half of the race.

The longer climbs looming in the Alps and Dolomites favor both Yates and Chaves. The Colombian has experience fighting for the podium in grand tours, and already boasts a second in the Giro and a third in the Vuelta a España. Yates, meanwhile, will be entering uncharted territory as he defends a leader’s jersey later in the race.

Of course, the big question is how much time will the pair lose to Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Chris Froome (Sky) in next Tuesday’s time trial at Trento? The defending champion Dumoulin is only 38 seconds behind, while Froome is lurking at 2:27 back.

“I hope I will not lose more than three minutes,” Chaves told AS. “The ideal tactic would be to take five minutes on everyone to be safe going into the third week.”

“We need to take time every chance we get,” Yates said. “It’s hard to put a number on it. Maybe two minutes. Hopefully I will have a time trial like I did in Jerusalem.”

The pressure will build this week as Mitchelton-Scott rides toward what it hopes will be the team’s first ever grand tour victory.

The next four stages carry the peloton closer toward Saturday’s showdown at Zoncolan. Each day, however, presents its own challenges. Mitchelton-Scott will have the pressure to carry the jersey into this weekend’s climbing stages. Stage-hunters and sprinters will be looking to take their chances before the climbers take over in the final week.

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