After a promising start to the season, Trek-Segafredo have seen a significant downturn in results, with little reward from either Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico. GC prospect Bauke Mollema, who almost won a stage in the Volta ao Algarve and finished fourth overall, was off the pace in Paris-Nice, while John Degenkolb was forced out through illness.
Other than Giacomo Nizzolo's third place on stage 2 at Tirreno-Adriatico, the team have been virtually invisible over the last two weeks save for appearing in early breaks. Following six victories in January and the start the February, the team have failed to win since Mads Pedersen's stage victory at the Herald Sun Tour.
"It’s difficult to explain but we're all trying to do our best," Dirk Demol told Cyclingnews at Tirreno-Adriatico.
"We had a successful start with six wins and that was unexpected. Then afterwards we had some good results, but no wins, and we’re struggling a little bit. Our leaders have had some problems, like [Gianluca] Brambilla who had pneumonia. He was our leader for here and for Strade Bianche. Fabio Felline has still not found the condition that he had back in Romandie last year and John [Degenkolb] had some good results but then he left during Paris-Nice because of bronchitis."
While the team are not pressing the panic button just yet – and other teams such as Sunweb are having much harder times at present – Demol is keen to stress that the Classics are the real priority.
Without a GC contender at Tirreno, and with only two sprint stages, the team's options were limited in Italy. At Paris-Nice their big guns failed to compete but Jasper Stuyven's fourth place in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the end of February provided a timely reminder of the talent at Demol's disposal.
"We keep believing that we have a strong team and we'll keep going on. Most of my riders here are preparing for the Classics but we also have to be realists," Demol added.
"We don't have a climber here so we can't do GC. My priority here is to make sure that the guys leave the race in better shape that when they came in. That's all I can do at the moment."
The successful start of the season caught even the Trek management by surprise. Degenkolb won twice at the Mallorca Challenge, while there were two wins in Argentina. However, in many of the more competitive races Trek have been found wanting at times.
"It was a surprise for us that we had six wins so early. You obviously always want that first one but it was 'wow' when we had six. We don't have a Van Avermaet or a Sagan in the team but we have a good team. We will be competitive in the coming months."
There have been signs of promise, such as Niklas Eg's impressive top 10 place at the summit finish at the Abu Dhabi Tour but it's clear that Trek will need their leaders to rediscover their best form in the coming weeks.
"We have to be honest, it's not been our week, or our weeks. We had Jasper with fourth at Omloop but we were expecting more. We have a lot of young riders and we're confident that we'll be okay."