Kristian Sbaragli was one of the unsung heroes of the MTN-Qhubeka team in 2015, winning a stage at the Vuelta a Espana and taking a long series of top-ten placings. In 2016 the Italian rider is hoping for more of the same and a chance to ride the Giro d’Italia.
Sbaragli hails from Tuscany, just 50km from the team’s base in Lucca and he has been part of MTN-Qhubeka since 2013, gradually progressing as he fought older and faster rivals in sprint finishes and one-day races. He secured three top-ten placings in the Vuelta before winning in Castellón on stage 10, ahead of John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Jose Joaquim Rojas (Movistar), after ensuring he was part of a major selection in the peloton.
“I’ve improved year after year and that’s important to me as much as my win was,” Sbaragli told Tuttobiciweb in an interview looking back over his 2015 season.
“I’ve got to thank the team because they’ve always helped with a good race calendar. In three years I’ve ridden lots of races where I had chances to win and also rode WorldTour races so I could learn for the future. I used to think I was a sprinter but I’ve realised that I can get results in hillier races where there’s a selection and some sprinters are eliminated. I’m working on my climbing so that I can put myself in more positions to use my fast finish.
“Before the Vuelta I’d taken a lot of top-ten placings and won a stage at the 2013 Tour of Korea but never managed to win an important race. To finally get a win, and a big win, has taken a weight of my shoulders and paid back the team for their support.”
Sbaragli revealed that his success at the Vuelta and his consistency has sparked several offers from other teams for 2016 but he is under contract with the African team and happy to be part of the project as it grows and steps up another level with the arrival of Mark Cavendish and the expected WorldTour licence.
“I’ve had other offers but I’m happy here, I’m grateful for the help I’ve had. I’ll consider my future at the right time but now I can’t wait for 2016,” Sbaragli explained.
“I’ve learnt a lot from working for [Gerald] Ciolek and [Edvald] Boasson Hagen and I’m sure that experience will help me in the future. I’ve shown I can be competitive in one-day races and stage races. I want to focus more on specific races and target more stages in Grand Tours. I’d love to be up there in Milan-San Remo, and even the Ardennes races such as the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Brabançonne. If the team gets a place in the Giro d’Italia, it’d naturally become a huge goal for me. Winning a stage in the maglia rosa would be incredible.”