ALFAS del PI, Spain (VN) — Replacing a rider like Fabian Cancellara is all but impossible, but the arrival of Segafredo as a co-sponsor gives Trek a lot more options as the Swiss superstar enters his final season.
Cancellara, who turns 35 in March, has been the centerpiece of Trek Factory Racing since its inception in 2014 (and Leopard Trek before that), but the Italian coffee maker will help ease the way for the team to find riders to fill the hole left by “Spartacus.”
“There are few riders like Fabian. He’s one of the best of his generation,” Trek sport director Dirk Demol said. “It’s impossible to find another like him. I know he’s super-motivated to finish his season with a big result.”
While Cancellara is focused on going out with a bang, the team can look toward the future with more confidence thanks to the arrival of Segafredo. The three-year sponsorship deal will give the team more negotiating power when it comes to finding a replacement for Cancellara as well as bolstering the team’s GC options.
A few choice top classics riders will be on the market at the end of the upcoming season, including Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert (both BMC Racing), John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), and current world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). Sagan has a contract through 2017, but team owner Oleg Tinkov announced he is leaving the sport at the end of the 2016, meaning Sagan’s future is up in the air.
All of those names, and more, will inevitably be linked to Trek-Segafredo in the coming months.
Demol said the three-year commitment from Segafredo gives team management extra weight when it comes to negotiating possible contracts because the team can provide longer-term deals.
“To do it for at least three years, that gives the team a chance to build up something,” Demol said. “When you can only look ahead one year, it’s difficult. We lost [Bob] Jungels and [Danny] Van Poppel because we couldn’t give them more than a one-year contract, and they had better options.”
For 2016, Jungels joined Etixx-Quick-Step and Van Poppel went to Sky in large part because those teams offered them contracts for more than one season.
And top riders like Sagan or Van Avermaet will be demanding at least two- or three-year deals as they look to cash in on their marquee status. Segafredo’s arrival means Trek will be able to negotiate with the top teams of the peloton in what’s sure to be a bidding war for the top classics riders going into next season.
On Thursday, Gilbert refused to speculate where he might land, though rumors link him to a possible return to the Lotto organization, where he raced from 2009-2011.
“I am not thinking about contracts yet,” Gilbert said. “I am happy here at BMC. I will wait until after the classics to even think about that. My agent will see who is interested, then we can make a decision.”
While top Trek officials were in Italy this week to seal the Segafredo deal, most of the other riders and staff were along Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Everyone was upbeat about Segafredo’s arrival.
“It’s big news,” Frank Schleck said. “To have a big Italian sponsor like that says a lot. Luca [Guercilena, general manager] and Trek can be happy. It’s good because it gives them a guarantee for the future.”
Demol, meanwhile, sounded bullish about the team’s chances for the upcoming classics and for the future. Even without signing a big name to replace Cancellara, Demol said the team is developing younger talent to step up.
“Jasper Stuyven is a rider who can go the longer distances of the classics. He will be supporting Fabian, but he will have his chances, too,” Demol said. “We are also excited about [Edward] Theuns. He has a lot of potential.”
As Demol said, it will be all but impossible to replace a rider like Cancellara, whom Demol called “one of the best classics riders ever,” but Segafredo’s backing will certainly make the task a lot easier.