For any up and coming sprinter, a chance to learn from Mark Cavendish is an opportunity to grab with both hands. 25-year-old Kristian Sbaragli is at a pivotal point in his career after scoring his maiden Grand Tour victory at last year's Vuelta a Espana, and he's ready to learn as much as he can from the Manxman as they ride together for Dimension Data in 2016.
"He's still young but he's got a long career behind him. For sure he is more experienced than us, he's won everything in cycling and we are excited to learn as much as possible from him and all the rest of the new guys that have come in," Sbaragli told Cyclingnews. "He's probably more of a pure sprinter compared to me and Youcef but he can teach us a lot. If we can really work together then we can achieve even better results than we did last year. That's the main goal for everybody."
Sbaragli has been with the African team since 2013 and has seen the team grow from minnows in the peloton to a strong WorldTour team. The addition of Cavendish and eight others, including Mark Renshaw, Bernhard Eisel and Nathan Haas, is just the latest in a raft of changes to the South African registered outfit. When Sbaragli joined, he was one of six non-Africans in a 21-rider team. Fast forward three years and he is now in the majority with 15 of the team's 28 riders from outside of the African continent. For Sbaragli, however, the make-up of the team is not the most important aspect and he welcomes the changes.
"It's completely different but the main part, the project, is still there, which is the main thing. We actually race for a reason not just to get good results but for Qhubeka," explained Sbaragli. "Everybody in the team knows that the more results that we get then the more visibility we bring to the project. Our team is not only about victories but it is clear that if you win then everyone will see your jersey and will see the word Qhubeka and maybe they will google it if they don't know what it means."
"I think that three years ago, nobody in Europe knew what Qhubeka meant and now everyone who follows cycling knows it. To arrive here we had to change a lot and we are happy to be with this project for the next years."
Sbaragli will no longer be the relative unknown in the peloton that he has been in the past years of his career after beating John Degenkolb in a bunch sprint on stage 10 of the Vuelta a Espana last August. There will be much more expectation on his shoulders as he goes into his 2016 season. He has placed plenty of expectation on himself too, as he looks towards success in his home Grand Tour with his first classification winner's jersey.
"I think that my main goal will be the Giro d'Italia and I will try to get one stage there and then try to win the points jersey at the end of the three weeks," said Sbaragli, who also plans to return to the scene of his glory, the Vuelta a Espana.
"I don't know if I'm ready but I'd like to do two Grand Tours and make another step with my body. I think we have a really good team for the Tour de France so I will try to get some results elsewhere, especially as I'm Italian, and for me it is important. The Tour de France is the most important race but for me to win one stage in the Giro d'Italia would be a dream."