After a stellar 2017, Lepisto endured a difficult campaign this season with illness hampering her throughout. There were some positive notes such as the retention of both her national titles and stage wins at the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour and Giro Toscana, but Lepisto is ready to put the year behind her.
“It was a learning year for me, I think,” Lepisto told Cyclingnews. “I was sick many times this year. I don’t know how many times, maybe three or four, I had the flu at the beginning of the year and it didn’t really go away. Also, I crashed many times this year. It was a hard season for me. I’ve taken really good steps every year from 2014 but now it felt like a little step back, but I think it is needed to take two steps forward again, I hope.”
While Lepisto has her sights on big targets such as the Giro Rosa and Gent-Wevelgem, her main goal is not victories. Through the difficulties of last season, Lepisto feels that she lost her way and some of her confidence. In 2019, she hopes she can get that back and everything else will hopefully fall into place.
“You lose it a little bit when you get sick and then the form is not so good, and you have to get back and then you fail and then you have to do it again and again. I got a few wins this year, but it was hard,” said Lepisto. “I just want to get the sprinting back, it was so hard this year, so I just want that back. That’s my biggest goal, to get back my sprinting and win some big races and then the goals will come more naturally.”
As Lepisto mounts her attempt to return to form, she will have a clean slate and a new team to do it with. The Finish rider was one of 13 signings for the new Trek-Segafredo women’s team. It is the first time in her career that she has switched teams after turning professional with the Bigla Pro Cycling [now Cervelo-Bigla] team in 2014. It’s a big change for Lepisto and everything is on a bigger scale at Trek, from roster size to backroom staff.
“Of course, it’s very different. Cervelo-Bigla didn’t have the biggest budget and we didn’t have that many riders in the team,” she said. “We have so many staff members and all the girls and also the men’s team, so it’s much bigger. But I don’t feel like I’ve got lost in this group. I feel like they are taking good care of us.
“I learned a lot and I developed quite a lot [at Cervelo-Bigla]. Five years back, I didn’t think that I would win a stage in the Giro or Gent-Wevelgem or being on the podium at the Worlds. It’s been pretty amazing, what the team has done for me.”
Last month, the Cervelo-Bigla team has been involved in a controversy after several riders accused manager Thomas Campana of bullying riders. The accusations stem from the 2015 season, Lepisto’s second year and Campana’s first with the team. Lepisto said that she did not want to comment on the matter but said that she would not have stayed with the team if she hadn’t been able to work with Campana.
“I also had calls from a journalist before but I don’t want to say anything about what the girls have said before. I don’t want to comment on it. I don’t want to get involved. I was there for four years and it’s a pretty long time in a team and if you couldn’t work with someone then you wouldn’t be there that long,” she said.
Trek-Segafredo’s recruitment drive have seen them source a well-rounded team, but they do have particular strength in the Classics with Lepisto, Ellen van Dijk and Elisa Longo Borghini – they also have Lizzie Deignan but she is unlikely to be racing when the Classics come around. Lepisto is confident that they can take it to the rest of the teams in the peloton. She is also looking forward to working with new DSs, and sprinters, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg and Giorgia Bronzini.
“We have a strong team for sure and we have all kinds of riders in the team. I think that we fit well together and we’ll find a way to win a lot of races together next year,” explained Lepisto. “We have a good chance to win many races, and for me as a sprinter, I have Ina and Giorgia to help me. We have had some chats about things but for sure we will have more.”