Marta Cavalli is the only new signing at the FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope team this winter but the highly-rated young Italian is already dialing up her focus on the Classics and her continued development on the road as her track ambitions become less of a priority in an Olympic year.
Cavalli is just 22 but has already won the Italian national championships road race and taken part in two editions of the Giro Rosa. Her results in the Spring Classics have improved steadily in the last couple of years with top-tens in both the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem this year, and it’s in the Spring Classics where the former Valcar rider will hope to shine in the coming years.
“At the moment I don’t have a specific calendar or list of races that I’ll ride but my season will have two main goals. In the first part of the year I’ll look towards Flanders and the Ardennes - but we still need to check on the exact races that I’ll do - and the second phase will be around the Olympics, and with the focus on the road,” Cavalli told Cyclingnews from FDJ’s first training camp ahead of the new season.
The camp in France represents Cavalli’s first proper interactions with her new team after her entire racing career to date was fostered at Valcar. The move to FDJ represents a steady form of progression from Continental to WorldTour ranks but the assured 22-year-old is taking it all in her stride.
“I only arrived this morning because on Thursday there were some problems with the flights but so far it’s been really good,” she said.
“This is the first time I’ve met all my new teammates, because until now the only interactions I’ve had with them have been in races but you can only talk for a couple of minutes in those instances. Here it’s different because you really get the chance to talk with the entire group of riders and staff.”
The next few days and weeks are to ensure that Cavalli builds on the foundations after her winter move from an Italian team to French shores but she is confident that the correct move was made and that the belief showed in her by FDJ was fundamental in her decision to pen a multi-year deal.
“There are a lot of emotions because this is the first time I’ve been with another team. I rode with Valcar team for all my other years in cycling and everyone there was Italian. Now I’m here I need to talk in English or French but I’m really looking forward to getting started and racing. I chose this team because it’s one of the eight WorldTour teams next year and they offered me the chance to grow a lot and improve.
'Stephen Delcourt believed in my ability and where I could progress as a rider. His project is to improve and to win a lot and all the staff has bought into the plan. I talked a lot to Stephen before I even saw a contract and I felt that coming here would give me the best chance of progression.”
Complete race calendars for all of the riders on the team will be formalized during the camp and Cavalli doesn’t know just yet when she will make her full debut but one certainty is that she will dial back her focus on the track as a pursuit rider as she develops her road racing stock.
“For the moment my characteristics as a rider have changed a bit. I’ve lost some weight and I’m growing more confident on the climbs.
"For these reasons, I’ve lost some strength on the track. I’m still training on the track but I’ll probably focus on other races.
“The Classics are the races for me. They’re for strong riders, with steep climbs and I feel good when I’m in races like Flanders. When the bunch is small and thinned out I find the strength to be with the most important riders. I have a strong sprint too and that will help with my results.”
While the squad is stacked with talent, including their talismanic leader, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Cavalli knows that her fast finish and improved road stamina will present her with opportunities – especially in the one-day races. Her role in stage races will ultimately depend on the parcours but she will dovetail her individual chances with supporting riders like Ludwig challenge for GC honours.
“I’ll have my opportunities here but at the same time I’ll be a support rider for Cecilie in some of the longer races, such as the Giro and in the future, the Tour de France. I’ll be at her side and do my best for team results.”
A two-year deal at the team also gives the young Cavalli time to develop, although having raced at such a high level since her late teens she already has a wealth of experience behind her. Her win in the Italian nationals two years ago was both a surprise and a breakthrough moment for her but her maturity to deal with the pressure of racing in the champion’s jersey for twelve months was a vital stepping stone in her progression.
“When I started in the morning of that I was quiet because I had no pressure. I was young and just started with a great spirit. I always start to win races but wearing that jersey gave me responsibility because I was representing my country. The Italian title was a key moment for me because it opened the door for me to improve as a rider and grow.”
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