It has been a fantastic end to the year for Trek-Segafredo.
First came Mads Pedersen’s surprise victory in the World Championships. At least, it was a surprise to those outside the team. Then this weekend it was Bauke Mollema’s turn to delight long-time cycling fans with his stunning, opportunistic win at Il Lombardia, the season’s final Monument. But scroll a bit further below the headlines and you’ll see the team is not just focused on results in the here-and-now, they’re trying to build something for the future.
Credit: @Mads Pedersen
It was a trio of signings during or just after the World Championships that first caught the eye; Quinn Simmons, Elynor Bäckstedt and Antonio Tiberi. Three very young riders, 18, 17 and 18 respectively, two newly-crowned world champions and one multi-disciplinary marvel with a podium and fifth place in Yorkshire.
Simmons’ is a name US cycling fans should get used to hearing a lot. He was born in Durango, Colorado and is one of the brightest talents emerging on the American cycling landscape. He bagged himself a rainbow jersey in Yorkshire with a stunning solo attack, leaving the rest of the race behind some 33km from the finish. He crossed the line 56 seconds ahead of the next fastest rider. Not only that, he also placed fourth in the individual time trial.
Seventeen-year-old Elynor Bäckstedt will race for the Trek-Segafredo women’s team next year and boasts an incredible racing pedigree – her father Magnus won Paris-Roubaix in 2004, one of the most arduous one-day races in the world. Elynor’s third place in the junior TT and fifth in the junior road race under epically unpleasant conditions prove she is made of the same stern stuff as her dad and we’re looking forward to seeing her race in the blue of Trek-Segafredo. Her young age means she will get another chance to improve on those results too, before stepping up from the junior ranks.
Silver sensations!— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) August 18, 2019
GB duo @EBackstedt6 and @sophielewis_02 are in the medals again @UCI_Track Junior World Championships
They finish 2nd in the Women's Madison behind the USA #Frankfurt2019 #GBCT pic.twitter.com/e86arTqWNz
Antonio Tiberi will not make the switch to Trek-Segafredo until 2021, but the Italian TT specialist is going to be another formidable weapon in the Trek-Segafredo arsenal in the coming years. He won the junior men’s individual time trial by 8 seconds, and has also secured some impressive results on the road this year.
Other riders joining Trek-Segafredo next season include Juan Pedro López, a 22-year-old Spanish rider who comes across from Kometa-Polartec with his Luxembourgish team mate Michel Ries, who placed an impressive seventh in the Tour de l‘Avenir this year. You might remember two other riders who did well in the French ‘Tour of the Future’ and went on to excel in the WorldTour – if you need a hint, they won the last two editions of the Amgen Tour of California.
We asked Trek-Segafredo’s Toms Skujiņš, a three-time Amgen Tour of California stage winner, how he felt about his changing status in the team as the average squad age begins to head closer to 20 than 30.
“I’ve been riding the WorldTour for a while, but I still feel like one of the young guys in the team, even though I’m not! I think it’s pretty cool we’ll have people like Quinn Simmons on the team. Obviously for US fans he’s a big name, but not just him, there are other talented guys joining too.”
Skujiņš also sounds excited about the chance to be more of a leader in a team, helping to mentor those coming up.
“I get joy out of helping other riders out. I’m a team player. I think it shows in the way I race, I always do everything I can for the team. This year I’ve had more of an opportunity to be a team captain which I’ve enjoyed, as that was always kinda my role on the smaller teams when I was coming up. Occasionally the leader, but always the team captain making calls on the road.
“One guy that I learned a lot from was Simon Clarke [currently racing for the other US WorldTour team, EF Education First]. I raced with him in my first two years in Cannondale. He’s still very professional and always does his job, and always takes his chances when he gets them. He has a lot of experience and he likes to show it, whereas sometimes you get some leaders that maybe have the experience but are kinda shy in sharing it.”
On the role that the Amgen Tour of California plays as a place for young talents to demonstrate their ability, Skujiņš has nothing but praise.
“California showcases a lot of up and comers, with Tadej Pogačar being a great example this year. He was there and performed exceptionally, and kept that going until the Vuelta where he performed again. That was really impressive. The way it fits in the calendar and the way it’s raced, the Tour of California is a great proving ground for the young kids.”
In Skujiņš’ own career, his first stage win at Amgen Tour of California came as something of a breakthrough moment. He was riding for the Hincapie team then, a development squad based out of the USA. The result was a massive deal.
“I’ve been lucky enough to race California five times now with three wins out of it. Of course, the first win in 2015 is one that I’ll keep in my memory for a long time. It was a bigger deal for the whole team, because it was the biggest race we were doing all year. I didn’t just win the stage but I got to lead the race for two stages as well. It was definitely the stand-out win of my career.”
Learning from the masters
All this is to say nothing of one major new signing who is definitely not a youngster.
Vincenzo Nibali will move to Trek-Segafredo in the new year, bringing his brother Antonio with him as a trusted domestique. It remains to be seen if Nibali still has the legs to really challenge for a Grand Tour victory, but his presence on the team will add a huge wealth of experience – a resource the young racers will be desperate to tap into.
Credit: @Vincenzo Nibali
Already part of the team, Richie Porte is another supremely experienced stage racer who can pass on a wealth of knowledge to those willing to learn. Don’t be surprised if a few of the new signings we’ve discussed here spend much of their season working in a support role for Porte and Nibali. After all, there’s no better way to learn than by watching the masters.
On the women’s side of the squad, Bäckstedt will have the chance to learn from experienced winners like Lizzie Deignan who is expected to stay with the team and Lucinda Brand, who signs from Sunweb for 2020.
In these riders, old and young, Trek-Segafredo has both the steady foundations and the quality materials to build something truly exceptional, a stage-racing, monument-winning squad to rival that of Jumbo-Visma and Ineos. We look forward to getting a first look at how some of them are developing at the 2020 Amgen Tour of California.