After clocking up 21 victories in his first two seasons as a professional with Farnese Vini, Andrea Guardini had a more difficult time of it during his first year at WorldTour level at Astana. The Italian sprinter managed just one win – a stage of the Tour de Langkawi in February – but he is hopeful of bouncing back in 2014.
“I don’t consider it a negative year but rather a year in which I learned a lot,” Guardini told Gazzetta dello Sport. “You learn the most from difficult times and to get out of them, you have to work. You can’t stop and cry about it.”
While Guardini was never likely to ride the Giro d’Italia, where he had won a stage on his debut in 2012, he had hoped to be part of the Astana team at either the Tour de France or Vuelta a España. Instead, he raced only very sparingly in the second half of the season.
“There wasn’t one particular factor,” Guardini said of his low-key season. “After Langkawi, I had stomach problems and a cold, but maybe it was a virus. Then, when you make the step up to a top flight team, there are pros and cons. Maybe my difficulty with learning languages made it harder to adapt to riding on a team with so many foreigners.”
Guardini will begin his 2014 campaign at the Tour Down Under, and, as was the case during his first two professional seasons, he is hopeful that an early win can set the tone for the remainder of the year.
“I know well that the best opportunities for us sprinters are at the start of the year,” he said. “In the climbs, too, I’ve improved without losing my zip in the sprint but now I’ve got to go and show that out on the road.”
With team leader Vincenzo Nibali focusing on the Tour in 2014, there may yet be a berth for a sprinter on Astana’s Giro d’Italia roster, but manager Giuseppe Martinelli warned that Guardini will have to earn it.
“At the Dubai Tour and the Tour of Qatar, he has to earn his place for Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice, otherwise he’ll go to the Tour de Langkawi again instead,” Martinelli told Gazzetta. “Then in the spring, it’ll be up to him to show that he deserves a call-up for the Giro.”