After a season of two halves, Fabio Felline (Trek Segafredo) will focus on the cobbled Classics and week long stage races in 2018. After wins and successes in the first few months of 2017, illness threw him back and forced him to end the year early, giving him the chance to analyse the season.
The Italian kicked off his 2017 campaign by winning his first race, Trofeo Laigueglia, in impressive fashion. He backed that up with fourth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad before winning the prologue of the Tour de Romandie and holding the leader’s jersey until the penultimate stage. He went onto finish fourth overall in the race but the second half of his year was disrupted with illness. He quit the Tour de France midway and eventually had to end his season early in a bid to rest, recover and recalibrate for the new year. Speaking to Cyclingnews at the Rouleur Classic in London, the 27-year-old opened up about his plans for next year and his mixed 2017.
“Until May I had a really good season but after that it was a disaster,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I got toxoplasmosis and the power and the numbers were totally different to my normal level. When we discovered this virus I needed the time to recover but when you have something like this it’s not about a week, you need months. Now I’ve had a really long break so I’m confident for the new season.”
Felline raced the cobbles and the Ardennes in 2017 but next year the Italian will focus more on the first portion of Classics. His result in Omloop was a major step forward for the Trek rider, and although Paris-Roubaix is not currently on the cards the all-rounder believes he can prove his worth in the races leading up to the Hell of the North. Omloop aside, he also finished in the top twenty at both E3 Harelbeke and the Tour of Flanders – both while riding in the services of others.
“So for the next years my goals are to understand what kind of other races I’m good at, such as the Classics. In my head I love the cobbles but a lot of people discount me because I’m not 80kg but if I look at it another way, the first time I rode the cobbles was back in 2010 and I only came back to them in 2017. I had good feelings and in the Flanders Classics I got a lot of experience and realized how to use my power and when to make the efforts.”
Felline will also put his mind towards the week-long stage races that litter the first part of the season. He finished second in the 2016 Tour de Pologne and impressed at the Vuelta a Espana a few weeks later – working for Alberto Contador and winning the points jersey, but his Romandie result in 2017 was a major breakthrough.
“I had the yellow jersey until the final chrono. I wanted to keep it but in the end I had to settle for fourth on the GC but this was still a big step in my career. I feel that in small tours I can do well.”
The former Androni rider goes into his fifth season with Trek Segafredo and while he has his goals for the short term he has no plans to branch out into targeting Grand Tours. Despite Contador’s retirement the team still possess Bauke Mollema and have recently signed Italy’s Gianluca Brambilla from QuickStep Floors.
“We have Mollema and he’s showed that he’s a really good rider. People forget that he was right near the top at the Tour de France two years ago until the final few days and he won a stage this year. We have someone like Brambilla coming in and I think he wants to develop into a Grand Tour rider. He’s a real project for the team. We’ve all the elements to have a good year.”
“I don’t want to think too much about the big tours but I want to focus on the races where I can show my quality and where my body is ready to leave a mark. It’s a good quality to be complete but I don’t want to talk about the big tours. I want to put my focus in the races where I’ve shown I can do something already. In some of the cobbled races I can do something and on the small tours, I’ve shown that I’m competitive for the top five or the podium. When I was younger one of my dreams was to be successful in the big tours but sometimes you need to be honest. Maybe I can play for stages, or maybe a jersey.”