Saturday’s Il Lombardia will signify something of a changing of the guard at Groupama-FDJ. With last year’s champion Thibaut Pinot absent, 23-year-old David Gaudu will lead the line for the French team, while 36-year-old Steve Morabito races for the final time.
Morabito turned pro with Phonak back in 2006, going on to ride for Astana and BMC before joining FDJ in 2015. Over the course of a 14-year-career, he won four races – a stage of the Tour de Suisse, two stages at the Herald Sun Tour, and the Swiss road race title last year.
He rode 16 Grand Tours, including being part of Cadel Evans' Tour de France-winning team in 2011.
"I am about to experience the very last professional race of my career. This day, I approach it with what has guided me for several years now: my passion for sharing with the youngest riders of the team and my motivation to help bring our team to the best result," Morabito said.
"If I can cross the line in Como, it would be wonderful, but it is not my objective. I do not want to lose sight of our collective ambition, which is victory. My moment of glory will wait. My family, my two kids, my fan club, my friends, everyone will be waiting for me on the side of the road and at the finish, anyway."
Even without Pinot, who has not raced since abandoning the Tour de France, Groupama-FDJ have high ambitions with David Gaudu.
The former Tour de l’Avenir winner continues to go from strength to strength and caught the eye on Wednesday with an aggressive display at Milano-Torino. The previous weekend, he placed fourth at the GP Bruno Beghelli. He’ll be fuelled by the sense of frustration at his proactive style not yielding better results.
"I am approaching this 2019 edition very differently than last year, where my job was to help Thibaut Pinot as far as I could. This year, the team relies on me so I have to be there in the finish, ready to fight," Gaudu said.
"The team will be serving me on Saturday, I will have responsibilities, it will be a very special day. About the result, I don't want to refrain from anything. The level will be high, but anything can happen. Lombardia is a cycling Monument and I want to show up for this titleholder team."
Il Lombardia will cover 243km between Bergamo and Como, with the Madonna del Ghisallo and Colma di Sormano climbs shaking up the bunch before the decisive ascents of the Civiglio and San Fermo di Battalgia ahead of the 5km run-down to Como.
Gaudu may be young and relatively inexperienced, but he already proved his Monument credentials this year with sixth place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"Just like this whole week, we will build the race around David Gaudu. The results he got since Gran Premio Beghelli have shown David was capable of endorsing new responsibilities on such elevated races and the whole team is very motivated by this challenge," said Groupama-FDJ sport director, Philippe Mauduit.
"We are ambitious and assertive. We are able to weigh on the finish and to be part of the big battle. As a first-class lieutenant, David will be able to rely on a very good Rudy Molard who only showed good things this week.
"Next to him, we do regret the absence of Sébastien Reichenbach who had to be replaced because he got sick on Tre Valli Varesine. Then we will count on five solid domestiques, serving the group and whose mission will be to bring David as far as they can.
"I will end this with a word for our Steve Morabito, who will take the start of his very last race, on Saturday. Let's offer him some great emotions before we say cheers to his new life."
Groupama-FDJ squad for Il Lombardia
- William Bonnet
- David Gaudu
- Kilian Frankiny
- Valentin Madouas
- Rudy Molard
- Steve Morabito
- Anthony Roux