“Thanks for waiting for me,” Matteo Trentin said apologetically as he arrived in the mixed zone in Guilin after winning stage 5 of the Tour of Guangxi. The prolonged podium ceremonies and a visit to anti-doping had delayed the Italian, but then waiting has been a theme of his debut season at Mitchelton-Scott.
A training crash in January hindered Trentin’s Classics campaign, before a heavy crash at Paris-Roubaix left him with a compression fracture of his thoracic spine that kept him out of racing for eight weeks. He had to wait until August and the European Championships for his first win of 2018, while his first victory racing for Mitchelton-Scott came on his penultimate racing day of the campaign.
“I’m very happy because I won the European Championships with the national team so this is the first win I’ve had as a Michelton-Scott rider and it’s also my in the European champion’s jersey,” Trentin said. “I came here to China to do that and I’m very happy to have done it.”
Trentin won from a reduced peloton in a rain-soaked Guilin after the peloton had split on the final climb – and treacherous descent – of Jinzhu Hill. Indeed, the Italian’s strength was such that he was among a 19-man group that began the descent in front, but the mist-shrouded corners meant that they proceeded with greater caution, and they swelled in number to 70 or so riders on the run-in.
“It was the longest stage and the weather didn’t help the morale, but we knew somebody would try to do the climb hard to give [race leader] Gianni [Moscon] something to think about,” Trentin said. “On the descent, the peloton broke up and we were left with around 20 riders in front, but there wasn’t a lot of collaboration.”
A year ago, Fernando Gaviria dominated the flat stages at the Tour of Guangxi, but there has been an eclectic mix of sprint winners this time around, with Trentin emulating Dylan Groenewegen, Pascal Ackermann and Fabio Jakobsen by proving the quickest in the finale in Guilin.
Neither Groenewegen nor Jakobsen made the final selection here, and Trentin and his Mitchelton-Scott team opted to base their lead-out on that of Bora-Hansgrohe, who had seized the initiative on behalf of Ackermann. Luka Mezgec was Trentin’s pilot in the final kilometre, but the Slovenian crashed after a coming together with Ackermann.
“We decided to base our sprint off Bora’s wheel and we managed to position ourselves well there,” Trentin said. “We were side by side with the lead-out train of Bora, with Luka in front of me, and Ackermann with his lead-out man. Ackermann tried to pass between me and Luka and Luka went down. That’s how the crash happened.”
Trentin will have another chance to add to his tally for 2018 on the Tour of Guangxi’s flat, final stage in Guilin on Sunday, but he has already ensured that a stop-start debut season with Mitchelton-Scott ends on an upbeat note. The European Championships crystallised as a target during his period of convalescence following Paris-Roubaix, but much of the following month was spent in the service of Simon Yates at the Vuelta a España. The Tour of Guangxi, however, saw Trentin take the reins of leadership.
“After a serious injury to my back, I already had it in mind to do the European Championships as the first objective, and I managed to win it. I was 5th in Hamburg, and then I went to the Vuelta, where all our objectives were all focused on the GC with Simon [Yates], and rightly so because we won,” Trentin said. “This race was a bit my last opportunity of the season and my first concrete opportunity to have a sprint train. Finishing the season well always helps, especially with the bad start to the year that I had.”