Trentin turns injury-marred season around with European Championships victory

Italian thanks supporters during long recovery from fractured spine

Italy's Matteo Trentin turned what has been a season full of injuries around into a moment of emotional success by winning the men's road race at the UEC European Championships in Glasgow on Sunday. Racing for the squadra azzurra, Trentin out-sprinted a six-rider breakaway to secure the title and distinctive jersey.

Trentin cracked a rib in pre-season training and then fractured his spine at Paris-Roubaix in April. He has spent eight months fighting back from injury.

"It's incredible to have won after everything I've been through recently," Trentin said. "We rode perfectly as a team, and I have to thank everyone who has supported me during my problems and injuries. Nothing went right for eight months, and so I want to thank everyone who was there for me. This is a great day!"

Moving from the Quick-Step program over to Mitchelton-Scott this season was meant to be an exciting time for Trentin but his crash while training in January, where he broke one rib and sustained superficial wounds, set him off on the wrong foot. Once recovered, he started racing at the Volta a Valenciana to make up for lost training time ahead of the 'opening weekend' of the Classics at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, where he assumed a leadership role. He managed 55th and 16th place, respectively, but played vital roles in breakaways at both races.

He went on to respectable performances during the Classics season; 11th at E3 Harelbeke, 7th at Gent-Wevelgem, but the worst of his injuries followed a crash on the d'Haveluy à Wallers sector at Paris-Roubaix. He suffered a stable compression fracture of his thoracic spine, and although he was thankful his injuries weren't worse, he wore a back brace for one month during his recovery period.

It took eight weeks before he could return to racing at the Adriatica Ionica Race in June, but he only just started to show top form when he finished third in the opening stage at the Tour de Pologne last week. The result in Poland bode well for his goals to race with the Italian national team at the European Championships.

Trentin formed part of an eight-man team for the men's road race in Glasgow. The 230.4km race held on 14km undulating circuits initially looked like it would suit sprinters like Peter Sagan and Alexander Kristoff, and so Trentin lined up in support of Elia Viviani. Other members of the team included Davide Ballerini, Marco Canola, Davide Cimolai, Sonny Colbrelli, Jacopo Guarnieri and Salvatore Puccio.

Trentin and his teammate Cimolai, however, rode into the day's decisive 10-man breakaway, which got away with about 55km to go. A crash on the wet roads with just under ten kilometres left took out several of the riders, leaving only Trentin and Cimolai, along with Wout van Aert (Belgium), Matthieu van der Poel (Netherlands), Jesus Herrada (Spain) and Xandro Meurisse (Belgium).

"When the right move formed, I spoke to Cimolai, and then he attacked to make the others show their hand," Trentin said after the race. "I saw [Maurits] Lammertik go into the barriers, but we avoided him. Then we eased slightly, but it all worked out perfectly.

"The crash simplified things. Then in the sprint, I asked Cimolai to lead me out, and he did. He did a spectacular job, as did all the Italian team."

Italy and Cassani celebrate

Trentin gave Italian national coach Davide Cassani his first men's title after a series of placings and crashes in recent seasons. The Italians opened the spumante post race and celebrated together.

"They were all fantastic, they always had the race under control," Cassani said in praise of his riders, who raced without race radio information.

"I told them a couple of key things in the final meeting and then they delivered. It was a nervous race and harder than expected but they were attentive and rode well, none of crashed despite the wet conditions. We knew that Viviani would have been closely controlled and that’s why we also had Colbrelli and Matteo as team leaders."  

Cassani selected Trentin for the 2017 World Championships in Bergen after his four stage victories at the Vuelta a España. Trentin was in the front group but was bumped off the best wheel by eventual winner Peter Sagan and finished fourth. Despite that disappointment and his injuries, Cassani kept faith in Trentin. 

"Matteo has been very unlucky this season due to crashes but had focused on this race. Last year he just missed out on a medal at the world championships but this time he didn't do anything wrong," said Cassani, who noted the team's overall success with Trentin winning the men's race and Marta Bastianelli winning the women's title.

"His gold medal closes a superb championships for Italy, we won both the men’s and women’s race and took medals in almost discipline on the track. I'm really happy."

Italy's next goal is the far tougher World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria at the end of September. Cassani is hoping Vincenzo Nibali can make an equally successful comeback from injury.  
  

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