The IAM Cycling team will cease to exist after this Saturday's Il Lombardia, the final Monument of the 2016 season. Going out with the team will be 2011 Lombardia winner Oliver Zaugg, who announced his retirement at age 35.
"This race was always one of my favourite races, even before my victory. With that in mind, it is all the better that I can have this race also be where I will finish my 13 year career as a professional cyclist," Zaugg said.
"In my career, I have experienced many beautiful moments, and I certainly hope that I can gracefully conclude this chapter of my life as a professional cyclists on Saturday at the Tour of Lombardy."
The IAM Cycling squad has had the best results of their four-year history this season, racking up 17 victories including stages of the Giro d'Italia (Roger Kluge), Tour de France (Jarlinson Pantano) and Vuelta a España (Mathias Frank and Jonas Van Genechten), and the overall Tour de Wallonie and Baloise Belgium Tour with Dries Devenyns. Directeur sportif Kjell Carlström is realistic about the team's chances in its final outing in Bergamo.
"Our goal will be to have a rider in the top-10, and if everything goes perfectly, we should even have a chance at a podium position," Carlström said. "With Mathias Frank and Jarlinson Pantano, we have two riders who should excel at this sort of race. The race distance, the profile, and also the fact that it comes so late in the season will make this event especially difficult. You really have to have a super day to be successful here."
The parcours has been altered from previous seasons, with the final 100km especially hilly. The 11.6km Valico di Valcava ascent will wake up the riders' climbing legs for the five climbs to follow. The Berbenno, Sant'Antonio, Miragolo San Salvatore and Selvino climbs come back-to-back, leaving a 12km descent then 3.2 flat kilometers before the short, sharp Bergamo Alta just 3.1km before the finish line at kilometre 241.
"The race is long and very difficult. I certainly expect a race of attrition," Zaugg said.
Mathias Frank will be hoping to build upon his success in the Vuelta a España, where he won stage 17. "This is an extremely tough race, and after such a long season, the rider's mental strength always plays a big role," Frank said. "That is especially true if the weather is not the best. Personally, I have come out of the Vuelta strong, and I am feeling good. If everything fits together well, this could be a good race for me."
The team will be represented in its final outing by Zaugg, Frank, Stef Clement, Stefan Denifl, Jonathan Fumeaux, Jarlinson Pantano, Larry Warbasse and Marcel Wyss.
Only 11 of the team's 28 riders have confirmed contracts for the 2017 season. Zaugg and Jerome Coppel have chosen to retire. AG2R La Mondiale scooped up Oliver Naesen, Frank, Clement Chevrier and Sondre Holst Enger. Trek-Segafredo signed Pantano and Matthias Brandle, Devenyns heads to Etixx-Quickstep and Heinrich Haussler to Bahrain-Merida. Clement joins LottoNl-Jumbo, Jonas Van Genechten signed with Cofidis, and Kluge was picked up by Orica-BikeExchange.
That leaves Marcel Aregger, Stefan Denifl, Martin Elmiger, Jonathan Fumeaux, Leigh Howard, Vegard Stake Laengen, Pirmin Lang, Simon Pellaud, Matteo Pelucchi, Vicente Reynes Mimo, Aleksejs Saramotins, David Tanner, Larry Warbasse and Marcel Wyss on the market.