Sam Bewley crossed the line at the end of stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana 2.33mins down on stage winner Fabio Jakobsen; but with plenty of time to talk to Eurosport after the stage.  His first words: ‘How did Luka go?’

It was to be – on paper – a pretty simple day of bike racing for Sam Bewley and the Mitchelton-SCOTT team.  Heading into the stage Mikel Nieve sat fourth overall, just 22 seconds behind race leader Nicolas Roche; and all going well and no time being lost the battle for the red jersey would truly come into the forefront of everyone’s minds in stage 5.  Esteban Chaves was also sitting in 13th overall at 51 seconds back and ready to strike, while Luka Mezgec on the flatter roads had already shown good potential with a third place finish in stage 3.  

The day panned out well for Sam and the team and as he explained to Eurosport, but for a spot of rain it was a stock standard day for the fast men.  “It was a pretty straightforward day and there wasn’t too much wind and luckily the rain stayed away for the most part of the stage; so it was a pretty straightforward sprint stage.  We had some rain on the last climb but from there it was business as usual for a sprint stage and everyone safe and upright so that’s the main thing,” Sam said.

Racing this year’s Vuelta without either Simon or Adam Yates, with Simon being the 2018 champion, makes for a different kind of race for the team of the defending champion; but that doesn’t mean that Mitchelton-SCOTT aren’t GC focussed.  Though Nieve is 4th overall it’s still their Colombian climber who is priority 1 at this stage.  

“We’ve got Chaves here so things are sort of the same anyway [as having one of the Yates brothers to work for].  It’s always fun to race with the Yates boys in the last few grand tours I’ve done.  Probably the last three or four I’ve been with at least one of them.”

With almost 30 wins to his name – including a stage win in the Giro d’Italia – Luka Mezgec shouldn’t be a name that flies under the radar but to many he does in sprint circles.  The last season or two has seen him hone his form again, taking stages wins in the Tour de Pologne and Tour of Slovenia.  Bewley has high praise for the Slovenian, who’s rocked and rolled with the seasons of change that Mitchelton-SCOTT have experienced. 

Luka Mezgec has had a strong start to the 2019 Vuelta and will look to pick up a sprint over the next couple of weeks, photo Sirotti

“He’s obviously won heaps of races before in sprints, then when he came to this team he changed his focus a little bit as a lead out guy for Caleb [Ewan].  Now that Caleb’s gone he’s changed his focus again to do his own sprints when he gets the chance and also help in the grand tours for the GC guys.  He’s coped super well, he’s sprinting fast, he’s really one of the most important guys in the team with the way he’s going and the form he’s showing.  So let’s see what he can do in the next couple of weeks.”

The interesting thing about Mitchelton-SCOTT this year at the Vuelta is their diverse range of options.  The introduction of the Yates brothers as GC threats has almost brought a more one-dimensional focus to the team, but in the next two and a half weeks we can expect to see some very colourful racing from a number of riders.

“It’s a long race, it’s three weeks and we’re only four days in.  We’ve got a lot of different goals here.  Of course we’ve got Esteban who’s got some ambitions and we’ve also got guys who want to have a crack at some stages.  The last couple of days we’ve been riding for Luka, tomorrow in the mountains so maybe I’ll get a chance and then we’ll see what happens!”

Tomorrow’s fifth stage sees a brand new summit finish introduced to the Vuelta a Espana in the form of the Observatorio Astrofisico de Javalambre; an 11.7km climb averaging 7.5% but regularly hitting upwards of 10% gradient.  

“Tomorrow’s hard,” Bewley said in anticipation of what’s to come.  “By the sounds of it [the climb is] super hard, I’m sure it’ll be like stage 1; there’ll be only a few guys left at the finish.  We’ll start to show who’s in really good condition and who’s in contention for this year’s Vuelta.”

For the full interview that Sam did with Eurosport click here.

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