Italian sprinter Niccolo Bonifazio has indicated that his split with Lampre-Merida last season was anything but amicable. In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Bonifazio said that he had felt alone and lacked support at Lampre.
The 22-year-old joined Trek-Segafredo over the winter, after spending his first two seasons as a professional on the Italian squad, and says he feel much better in his new home. "The last two years have been tough in practice I managed alone," Bonifazio told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I could have done more in the last two years at Lampre if anyone really believed in me. There was no contact person to follow me, I was lonely, I was not supported with regard to training, nutrition, but also travel, logistics. Now it's all different, and I'm calm, I am just focussing on my work.”
Lampre-Merida team manager Brent Copeland has, however, hit back at the accusations laid out against them by Bonifazio. Speaking to another Italian publication Tuttobiciweb, Copeland defended his team and its staff. He also gave a damning report on Bonifazio’s time at the team, saying that he had showed disrespect to the team.
“Lampre-Merida was the professional team who most believed in Bonifazio, taking an interest in him when he was still young, by giving him our trust and turning him become a professional rider at a time when no one was willing to take it. In the two years he spent with us, we were able to find good quality cycling, but we were totally disappointed by the professional and above all human,” Copeland told Tuttobiciweb.
“[He had a] total lack of respect for the roles and rules. I'll tell you one thing: when deciding whether to re-sign him or not, we took into account the views of all members of the team and the feedback has been extremely negative and reflected the opinion of the leadership that Niccolo showed: a person with little respect, verging on rudeness.”
Now in a new team, Bonifazio is looking towards the future and his prospects this season. He got the ball rolling in 2016 out in Australia with a third at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and a second place on the penultimate stage of the Herald Sun Tour. He is expected to make his return to racing on the opening weekend of the Classics with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. However, his main ambitions lie with Milan-San Remo, where he took a surprise fifth place in his race debut.
"I use these roads in training, I have a family album with pictures and clippings from the race, and I have a photo taken from the top of last year's sprint where I'm there, 100 meters from the finish, just behind Kristoff,” Bonifazio gushed to Gazzetta dello Sport.
“This is the second one which I will ride… I have my references, and I see that I am slowly getting better. Cycling occupies most of my time. The best is yet to come."