Roberto Ferrari's first appearance as a WorldTour rider earned him a second place behind the unbeatable André Greipel in stage 4 of the Santos Tour Down Under. But his debut at the WorldTour level doesn't mean that the Giro d'Italia stage winner has been warmly welcomed in the closed circle of the world's best sprinter. Anger is still in the air as Mark Cavendish isn't prepared to forgive the Italian for making him crash in Horsens last year in the sprint finale of the Giro's third stage. The rider from Brescia, however, seems pretty satisfied with his move from Androni to Lampre-Merida.
At the age of 30, following seven seasons in second-ranked teams (Tenax, LPR, De Rosa and Androni), the Italian finally signed for a ProTeam. "Moreover, it's not such a big change as cycling remains a tiring sport," Ferrari told Cyclingnews in McLaren Vale. "Sprints are still fast! The main difference in my mind comes from the organization of the team. It requires operations of a higher level to put 30 riders on the road.
"It's also new for me to be able to start my season with such a big race as the Santos Tour Down Under. Then I'll be riding prestigious events like Paris-Nice, Milan-Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia. I feel ready. My physical condition here in January is not excellent yet but good enough to let me take part in the sprints. My main goal is the Giro. I want to be at the best of my form in May."
Ferrari's race program is quite different from last year when he won stage 5 of the Tour de Taiwan in Changhua in front of the Buddha statue of Baguashan or the French Cup one-day races Route Adélie and Flèche d'Emeraude in Brittany. "I've also chosen to change teams to get the possibility to compete in the cycling world that really counts," he said. "I want to score at that level on the first occasion that I can catch. Sprinting might be an easier task in the WorldTour as many teams are focused for that. If there is a possibility for a sprint finish, it subsequently happens, whereas it requires more work from the team to get the whole bunch back together in races of a lower level."
Often criticized by his counterparts for sprinting dangerously, Ferrari admitted that he hasn't felt any real change in his relationship with other cyclists yet. "The respect from the adversaries comes from winning," he said. "I don't feel more respected yet. I need to win."