Charlie Quarterman is waiting on a last-minute deal to fall into place as he looks to keep his WorldTour career alive, but after two years at Trek-Segafredo, the 23-year-old has been left frustrated by the manner of his departure from the American team.
Quarterman signed with Trek-Segafredo for 2020 and was seen as one of the most promising young riders on the WorldTour circuit after an impressive 2019 that included a U23 British time trial title, and two top five results at the Baby Giro.
However, the next two years failed to pan out as Quarterman and the team had hoped. The global COVID-19 pandemic truncated the 2020 season into just a matter of weeks and during his first race of 2021, Quarterman suffered a concussion in a heavy crash at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. By the time he was able to return to anything like his best, the season was almost over, at which point Trek-Segafredo decided to move on.
"I think that I lost my place in Trek mostly due to politics and secrecy, which makes it more complicated to find a new team," Quarterman told Cyclingnews in a phone interview.
"There's always lots of stuff going on in the background and as a rider you only hear about 20 per cent of the story, I think. Maybe what I think is secrecy and politics is a lack of communication but either way, there's more to it."
While Quarterman readily admits that he learned a huge amount in the last two years and that he would have happily re-signed with Trek-Segafredo on new terms, the main issue comes down to a lack of clarity when it comes to his departure from the team.
The American outfit has tried to revamp their team in recent years with a string of younger signings but Quarterman expected a greater degree of loyalty.
"With Trek I'm still not sure on the reasons as to why I wasn't renewed. I've been told that the development just didn't come fast enough and that there were market forces with too many young riders that they wanted to sign.
"So I've been pushed out, after two years with quite a lot of stuff happening, but also after two years of loyalty. I'm surprised by their decision. I think that there's more to the story. It's a shame to be leaving the set-up because I would have been very happy to re-sign and build. It was a good environment for that."
Despite the difficult 2020 debut season, and the injuries, he sustained earlier in the year, Quarterman was still expecting a contract extension from Trek-Segafredo and pointed to his value as a domestique within the team.
"Everyone plays the game and managers are always saying I'll give you a response next week or I need to check a few things out first. Everyone is thinking that they might get a better option so they're hesitant to say what the real situation is. It's why looking for a team can take such a long time," he explained.
"I wasn't expecting an upgrade but with last year being hit by COVID-19 and everything compressed, and then this year, starting with the concussion and having two months off after my first race, I just didn't realise how cut-throat it would be. I thought they'd give me another year to show what I have but pro cycling and sport can be like that and there's nothing you can do.
"Unless you do a job that's recognisable on the television and you get recognition for it like a Tim Declercq then it's only between your teammates that it's noticed. Relying on the gratefulness of a professional sports team isn't always the most reliable thing."
When asked if he would have done anything differently during his time at Trek-Segafredo, the British rider paused before providing a detailed and honest answer.
He pinpointed that he could have been more selfish at times and that he could have ridden for himself rather than supporting the team's ambitions.
"The fact that I'm not sure where I've gone wrong makes it difficult to answer really," he said.
"I think I'd have gone straight into panic mode right after I started racing again. But at the same time, I was coming back from a concussion, and you can't really rush these things.
"I don't think that there's a huge amount I could have done other than taking more opportunities and being confident in myself from an early stage. It was only from around September before I jumped at chances if the leader wasn't feeling great. Before then I was waiting more and helping whoever I was told to help. I think that's part of being a teammate though."
The last few months have certainly taken a toll on the rider's spirits but he is entirely determined to carry on with his racing career. There is a contract option from another team on the table but it requires sign-off from a sponsor in order for the deal to be ratified.
At this point in the season, Quarterman is itching to get his future sorted.
"It's been such a long few months actually," he said. "Trying to be in the best shape possible while watching my phone all day, every day, and waiting for a message that says I can relax and focus on my riding. It's been quite tiring.
"I definitely have a point to prove. The last couple of months have made me realise that no matter what team I'm at next year I still have a lot to prove. I've seen a lot of development in the last two years with the work I've done for other people and with how the racing has gone. I just need to force myself to get into situations where I can show it. I'm determined to fight back."
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