The blockbuster deal between Alberto Contador and Trek – Segafredo was “easier than expected.” When Trek general manager Luca Guercilena heard that Contador wanted to keep racing in 2017, the Italian made a phone call. From there, the ball moved quickly.
“The deal with Alberto was easier than expected,” Guercilena said. “I called him the first time just to find out what he was going to do, because I had only read that he still wanted to race and perhaps build his own team. But Alberto immediately showed interest in us, and when both sides know there is a good path to work together, the deal came together quite fast.”
And the deal wasn’t just Contador. The Spanish superstar brings with him a large entourage that also includes two riders (Jesus Hernández and Michael Gogl), sport director Stephen De Jongh, as well as his personal mechanic and soigneur, with retired pro Ivan Basso also part of the bargain. That’s a lot, but Guercilena says that’s normal for riders of Contador’s caliber.
“Yes, Alberto is bringing some staff and riders with him, but that is normal for a big champion. The top riders always create their own little world,” he said. “They need the support, because they must suffer a high level of stress, and he wants to have some people that he can share and confide with.”
Contador is the centerpiece of the updated Trek – Segafredo team, which sees 11 new riders in 2017. Team anchor and superstar Fabian Cancellara retired after striking gold in the Olympic time trial in Rio de Janeiro, leaving plenty of space for Contador and his entourage. Guercilena confirmed Trek has a one-year deal with Contador for 2017, with an option for one more season.
“A rider like Alberto should have the freedom to define his future,” Guercilena said. “After this season, we will see how things are going, and it will be a common decision to see if we continue.”
At 34, Contador is keen to prove he can still win at the top level, and will put the Tour de France ahead of everything else. In one interview last fall, Contador hinted he would retire if he wins another Tour this summer. Guercilena promised Trek – Segafredo will give Contador solid support, already confirming that Dutch star Bauke Mollema will start the Giro d’Italia as GC captain, and then race the Tour de France in support of Contador.
“I still believe he can win the Tour de France,” Guercilena said. “The grand tours are where the experience really can make a difference. We are not blind that [Chris] Froome is on top, and there are other riders who just as strong, but I believe that Alberto, in a good environment, where he can be relaxed and enjoy his time, he can still perform at the highest levels of the sport.”
After a tumultuous split with Tinkoff and outspoken former owner Oleg Tinkov, Contador seemed ready for a fresh start with what will be his fifth professional team of his career. Contador will get the chance to further cement the relationship with his new teammates at a Trek – Segafredo training camp this week on Spain’s Mallorca. The team had its first get-together in December along Spain’s Mediterranean Coast, and this week’s pre-season camp marks the real start of the 2017 season.
“Alberto’s mentality is very positive. He is a top professional, he’s paying attention to the details, and he wants the team to support him,” Guercilena said. “He is a big champion and he brings his own ideas and personality that we will have to deal with. So far, it’s been a very nice surprise. We are the start of something good.”
How good remains to be seen. Contador will debut his 2017 season in a Trek – Segafredo jersey at Ruta del Sol in southern Spain, and is expected to follow a traditional road to the Tour similar to what he followed in 2016, with likely starts in Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, and the Vuelta a País Vasco before the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.