Felline eyeing first major Classic win in 2018

'I'm curious but also a little bit scared' says Italian on season debut in Oman

Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) has set his sights on winning his first major Classic this spring, of either the Flemish or Ardennes variety. Felline rode his first proper cobbled campaign last season and left a good impression, particularly with his fourth place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

He then went on to make steps forwards during the Ardennes, with 16th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, having missed much of it the previous year. The improvements have given him the hunger to pursue victory in at least one of them in the coming months.

"I will try to win one Classic. I don't know if it's at the Cobbles or the Ardennes but I want to win one," said Felline, who is starting his season at the Tour of Oman.

Felline will begin his Classics campaign at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad later this month before following a full Classics programme right up to the Tour of Flanders. He will skip Paris-Roubaix, as he has done in previous years, before moving across Belgium for the Ardennes Classics.

Felline is unlikely to be the Trek-Segafredo team leader at most of the Classics with John Degenkolb and Bauke Mollema given the nod for the cobbles and Ardennes, respectively. However he believes that opportunities will be there for him to go for a victory depending on who feels stronger on the day.

"I think that John and Mollema are the two riders who will represent more but we have four or five riders that are on the same level and if there are races where they have the level then they can be the captain," he explained.

"If I am stronger then they will work for me, and I think it is the same for everybody. I think also, this is the tactic for the team for every race. If everyone wants to be the captain then you will make a real casino for the race.

"We have to be honest with each other so that if I am stronger then I am the leader and if Jasper is stronger than he is the leader. I think that everybody will have the opportunity to do something."

Making a comeback

There is already a bit of a buzz around the Trek-Segafredo team after they got off to a strong start to 2018 with six victories on the board. That is double what they had by this date last season and over a quarter of what they achieved in all of 2017. One of those winners, Giacomo Nizzolo, is in the team at the Tour of Oman and the successful start has rubbed off on his teammates.

"The team has started really well. It is really important for the team and everybody because they feel more confident. The victories are important for everybody,” Felline said.

Felline is getting his season underway this week at the Tour of Oman, and he says that he's both curious and scared, especially after a difficult ending to last season.

The Italian drew his season to a close with a DNF at the Coppa Agostoni – Giro della Brianze after months of battling with illness. He had been diagnosed with toxoplasmosis at the Tour de France, which forced him to abandon the Grand Tour. Doctors believed he had recovered but he struggled through more than a month of racing before he finally pulled the plug on the season.

"This is my first race of the year. It is strange because I am coming back from a bad year. From June until the end of the season, it was always bad," he told Cyclingnews ahead of the opening stage from Nizra to Sultan Qaboos University.

"I'm curious too but also a little bit scared. I feel really good but I don't know. I hope for something because my last experiences of last year were always bad."

Felline made it through the first stage unscathed and in the front group. He can now focus on the coming stages where there could be opportunities for him to have a go. He has put in plenty of the hard miles over the winter, and despite the slight nervousness, he's confident that it will pay dividends for him.

"I feel good. I did a lot of training but I only have the sensations in training. It's always difficult to understand what your level is. For sure, I have trained good and always the work pays off," he said.

"I want to get the rhythm in the legs and then we will see from there. My mentality is always that if I have the legs to do something then I will try to do something.

"Why not dream of some good results. The next days with some climbs I think there will be some chances."

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