Trek Factory Racing manager Luca Guercilena looked tired but happy as he sat down with Cyclingnews after the formal announcement that the US-registered team will be known as Trek Segafredo from January 1, 2016.
The Italian team manager has endured a difficult season on the road in 2015 but has managed to secure an important, prestigious co-title sponsor that significantly boosts the team’s overall budget and secures the long-term future of the team. The agreement with Segafredo came at the expense of Bjarne Riis, who had a competing proposal for the coffee company.
As Fabian Cancellara ends his career with Trek Segafredo in 2016, Guercilena has the job of giving the team a new direction and new leadership for 2017 and beyond. In this interview, Guercilena makes it clear he expects results from the riders in the 2016 team line up and will carefully build the Trek Segafredo team of the future.
Cyclingnews: How important is the announcement of Segafredo as a title sponsor for 2016?
Luca Guercilena: It’s very important. It’s been a busy winter but if it means you’ve managed to involve an important company like Segafredo in cycling and in our team, then our work has been well worthwhile. We’ve always tried to do things as well as possible as Trek Factory Racing, and I think our hard work has been rewarded.
CN: We understand that Segafredo also talked to Bjarne Riis about working with him but opted to join up with Trek. Is that right?
LG: That’s true. We were contacted by Segafredo, and that was pleasing. I think the fact we’re owned by a secure, respected American company like Trek convinced them to work with us. We first talked in 2014, but we wanted to do things right. I believe that sponsors are a vital part of professional cycling because they fund what we do. It’s great for us that a great brand like Segafredo has become a sponsor.
When I got to know Massimo Zanetti, the president of Segafredo, it was nice to feel that he appreciated what were trying to do. I’ve had the same support from John Burke at Trek. It’s been a difficult season for us due to injuries and results that could have been victories but never seemed to go our way. John Burke and Trek always showed their support and now we’ve got Segafredo too.
CN: Having a three-year sponsorship from Segafredo and a bigger overall budget must be very reassuring considering the precarious nature of professional cycling.
LG: Definitely. Cycling has become an expensive sport. The price sponsors have to pay is arguably a fair price, but perhaps the difference between the budgets of the teams in the WorldTour is too big, making it difficult for a lot of teams to compete. You need several major sponsors if you want to compete with the best, which is obviously our goal.
The arrival of a major sponsor like Segafredo will allow us to target the rider market with clear goals and a clear strategy. We obviously won’t throw money around but will be able to offer stability and an excellent team structure to the riders who may want to join our team. I hope the quality of our project will attract the best riders in the peloton.
The end of the Cancellara era
CN: Does the end of Cancellara’s career mark the end of a cycle in the team?
LG: Yes. And it was nice to see that Segafredo and Massimo Zanetti joined us knowing that Fabian was about to reach the end of his career and that the future of the team going forward was a blank canvas. That’s a sign of the faith they’ve put in us.
CN: What will Trek Segafredo look like beyond 2016? Who is the top of your wish list of riders? You’ve already mentioned Vincenzo Nibali and perhaps Tejay Van Garderen.
LG: There’s been a lot of talk of names on my wish list, but I’m going to keep my feet on the ground and keep the names to myself. The rider market for 2017 offers several interesting possibilities and riders who are very interesting. We’ll listen to all of them and see what happens. I don’t want to name names for now because we’ve got the 2016 season ahead of us. Riders could struggle in 2016 or do really well. We’ll watch the racing carefully and study the market before making any major signings.
CN: Trek grew massively as a sponsor of Lance Armstrong when he dominated the Tour de France. The Tour de France must be an obvious target now.
LG: That’s true, and we’ve got Bauke Mollema, who had a good Tour de France again this year and will target the Tour in 2016. He also had a good second part of the season by winning the Tour of Alberta and in Japan. He’s showed his ability and I’m sure he’ll continue to improve and progress. Of course, Trek Segafredo wants big-name riders who can win races, help their teammates win and also help promote our sponsors.
CN: Segafredo is an Italian-based company. Will the team sign more Italian riders or will it continue to have an international roster?
LG: They have specifically asked us to have an international team. Segafredo is a global company and the team have global objectives and aim to do well in every race we ride.
CN: 2015 was a difficult season due to Fabian Cancellara’s crashes, other rider injuries and a long string of placings. What do you expect from the team in 2016?
LG: I believe 2016 will be a fundamental season for us. It’ll be the year that our talented young riders have to start to show what they can do; they’ve got to prove they can win races. I’m talking about Giacomo Nizzolo, Fabio Felline, Jasper Stuyven, new signing Niccolo Bonifazio and Edward Theuns. Along with our experienced leaders such as Fabian, Bauke Mollema, Ryder Hesjedal and Frank Schleck, they’ve got to live up to our expectations.
2016 will be the third year of Trek’s sponsorship, and I want to pay back their support with success. There will be no room for excuses. We’ve got the team structure to win. Now it's up to the riders to go and get the results.