Sacha Modolo wasted no time in delivering a victory for Lampre-Merida as the 26-year-old Italian spoiled Peter Sagan's (Cannondale) 24th birthday with a rousing field sprint win at the final stage of the Tour de San Luis.
As Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp) and Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) already accomplished in Argentina, Modolo became the third rider at the Tour de San Luis to take a win in his first outing for a WorldTour team. After spending four years, and earning 25 wins, for the Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox team (formerly Colnago-CSF Inox), Modolo made the jump to WorldTour level this season. And with a stronger supporting cast than he's ever had, this may be the beginning of the Italian sprinter's best year yet.
Even with an untested lead-out formulation, Lampre-Merida took control of the final three kilometres in a stellar display of teamwork with Filippo Pozzato pulling for an entire kilometre by himself to kick things off in the finale. Modolo's final lead-out man, Argentinian Maximiliano Ariel Richeze, kept the pace so high that after pulling off he still placed third on the stage.
"It was the first time we tried this lead-out train, we never tried it before in training camp," said Modolo. "My teammates are very professional. I'm coming from a smaller team and now I'm on a big team and my teammates have a lot of skills."
New teammate Pozzato provided the experience and leadership to keep Modolo in position. "Pozzato told me 'don't worry, if you follow me everything will go well.'"
For Modolo, the stage victory was his second in as many years at Terrazas del Portezuelo, which features a technical, uphill finale, but the manner in which it was accomplished this year speaks to the new resources at his disposal.
"It's different than last year," said Modolo. "Last year it was slower [in the finale], this year it was very fast. Last year I had to come from behind, this year I started sprinting from the front and it was completely different."
A key member of the Lampre-Merida lead-out train, Davide Cimolai, wasn't present in Argentina, but will provide even more horsepower to deliver Modolo to victory.
"I'm missing Cimolai, a rider who's very fast. I don't know if I want to put him as last man or second to last, but we will see in the future," Modolo said.
With one win already under his belt, Modolo's ambitions for the season remain modest.
"I haven't a really big goal for the season," said Modolo. "For sure I love Milan-San Remo because I was fourth in my first year [as a professional] and Tirreno-Adriatico, too.
"But we have several good riders on the team for those kinds of courses who reach them in very good shape, so we'll see during the season."