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Trek-Segafredo ready to punch above their weight in 2021

BIELSKOBIALA POLAND AUGUST 07 Mads Pedersen of Denmark and Team Trek Segafredo World Champion Jersey and Yellow Leader Jersey Ryan Mullen of Ireland and Team Trek Segafredo Edward Theuns of Belgium and Team Trek Segafredo Emils Liepins of Latvia and Team Trek Segafredo Alex Kirsch of Luxembourg and Team Trek Segafredo Peloton during the 77th Tour of Poland 2020 Stage 3 a 2031km stage from Wadowice to BielskoBiaa 433m TourdePologne tdp20 on August 07 2020 in BielskoBiala Poland Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Trek-Segafredo men’s team aim to improve yet again and to punch above their weight in 2021, targeting the Classics, Grand Tours and other stage races, as they fight for a position amongst the best teams in the WorldTour.

Trek-Segafredo’s experience and well-oiled team structure make them one of the most consistent teams in the peloton. Their budget is said to be somewhat lower than the likes of Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates, but Team Manager Luca Guercilena is not afraid to take on his wealthier rivals.

The US-registered WorldTour team won Gent-Wevelgem with Mads Pedersen, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad thanks to Jasper Stuyven and Richie Porte finished third at the Tour de France in his final season with the team. Although Vincenzo Nibali struggled at the Giro d’Italia late in an intense and massively rescheduled COVID-19-impacted season, he is still the team's Grand Tour leader.

Guercilena is convinced the veteran Italian can be back to his best during a more regular 2021 season, and is keen for him to extend his contract and so perhaps end his career in Trek-Segafredo red and white.

Pedersen and Stuyven will lead a strong Classics squad, while Nibali, Bauke Mollema and Giulio Ciccone will all ride the Giro d’Italia. Nibali and Mollema will also ride the Tour de France and Ciccone has his chance at leadership at the Vuelta a Espana. All three are likely to target the Olympic road race with their countries, while the Classics riders will focus on the World Championships in Belgium in late September.

“2020 was a very unique season, I think we’ll be competitive against the biggest teams in the sport,” Guercilena told Cyclingnews, using his past as a high-performance coach to analyse the evolution of the sport.

“It highlighted the strengths of the new generation of riders emerging and so 2021 will either confirm their talent or reveal if 2020 was a one-off season due to the impact of COVID-19. Pogacar showed his talents in 2019 and confirmed in 2020 by winning the Tour de France, but it will be fascinating to see how everyone performs in 2021.

“Last year was a very intense season in the second half of the year and according to our analysis that helped the younger riders. They also handled the lockdown much better psychologically. The young riders emerging now have all been racing and training very scientifically with power metres since they were 16 and so we're seeing a very prodigious generation emerge in a way that has never happened before. The only question is how long they can race at that level compared to the current generation. They might be burnt out sooner.”

Pedersen was world champion in Yorkshire in 2019 but only turned 25 in December. He is part of the new generation of Classics riders taking over, and Guercilena is convinced the Dane can disrupt the highly expected Wout Van Aert – Mathieu van der Poel duels, just as he did so well at Gent-Wevelgem.

“The Classics group has to take aim at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. We’ve shown we can win other Classics but this time we've got to raise our level and aim for the Monuments,” Guercilena made clear.

“The likes of Van Aert and Van der Poel capture a lot of the attention but I think Mads is a top rider and can be up there with them in any race. Jasper has always been consistent and won races, we hope he can step up even more and show his true talents.”

Trek-Segafredo is also hoping the depth and varied skills of the rest of the Classics team can help Pedersen and Stuyven be up there in the final of the biggest races.

“We’ve also got Quinn Simmons, who’s very young but is definitely a Classics rider. There’s Ed Theuns, our young sprinter Matteo Moschetti who is back to his best after fracturing his pelvis last spring, then there’s Alex Kirsch, Ryan Mullen and others. We expect a lot from those guys in 2021,” the Italian manager said.

“Team strength is vital because we’ve seen it can make a huge difference in the final of races when the decisive attacks are made. It’s not just about racing against the other riders, it’s about being there in numbers to have the best tactical options.”

Nibali’s final years

Vincenzo Nibali’s stage racing palmares and his victory in all three Grand Tours makes him an automatic flag bearer for Italian cycling and Trek-Segafredo.

The tifosi would like to see Nibali fight for the maglia rosa every May but he is now 36 and is also chasing a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Mollema is at a similar point in his career and so Trek-Segafredo have tweaked their Grand Tour goals for 2021.

In contrast, Ciccone is 26 and is on the rise in Grand Tour racing. He won a mountain stage and the climber’s jersey at the 2019 Tour de France, and then wore the yellow jersey for two days at the Tour de France. His 2020 goals were derailed by the COVID-19 virus in the summer but has the potential to inherit Nibali’s role in the years ahead.

“We’ve carefully studied our Grand Tour hopes this year. The GC is always important but we’ve seen a new generation of riders emerge, so we’ll start off by focusing on stages victories and then if the GC goes our way, we'll focus on that too,” Guercilena explained, confirming what Nibali and Mollema said when they revealed their hopes and ambitions for 2021.

“Vincenzo has always targeted the GC, that’s in his DNA, but I think we can do things differently and hopefully better this year. That’s a strategy we’ve decided as a team after reviewing 2020 and talking to the riders, the coaches and directeur sportif.

“Vincenzo did his best at the Giro but there are some incredible young riders out there and you’ve got to adapt to that. We’ll keep working to improve but you’ve also got to be realistic. He is training well and seems ready for 2021. Of course it’s the races that are the real benchmark, where you are compared against your rivals. But he wants to show that 2020 was a one-off for him, that his level is higher and most consistent than we saw.” 

Nibali’s two-year contract with Trek-Segafredo ends this year. The COVID-19 pandemic massively disrupted 2020 and so he is keen to race on in 2022 before perhaps ending his long and successful career. He has been linked with Ineos Grenadiers but Guercilena seemed confident he can offer the perfect farewell to the Sicilian.

“He’s got to focus on 2021 and I think everything will follow as a consequence,” Guercilena suggested. 

“I believe for a rider like Vincenzo, and at his age it’s up to him to decide about his future. He’s hugely valuable to us and to any team and so if he wants to stay, I’m sure we can quickly reach a deal and let his career evolve as it should. I think he wants to stay with us and there’s no reason why that won’t happen.”

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