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Luca Guercilena: ‘Tom Pidcock clearly wanted to stay at Ineos from day one’

Trek-Segafredo boss talks about developing riders, looking for a grand tour rider, Netflix, and Ciccone's all-important year.

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Trek-Segafredo’s general manager Luca Guercilena has spoken publicly for the first time about his team’s interest in signing Tom Pidcock.

The British rider hit the headlines in February when VeloNews reported that the 22-year-old was available for 2023 and that Ineos Grenadiers and their star rider had not agreed terms on a new deal.

Guercilena confirmed to VeloNews that he and Pidcock’s agent talked at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in the United States in January, but that it was clear even from those early conversations that Pidcock was closer to staying at Ineos.

“Clearly he was the man on the market. The big guy. Obviously we had a talk with the agent about the possibilities of hiring him, but unfortunately it looked evident from day one that he was more interested in staying at Ineos,” Guercilena told VeloNews from his home in Italy.

“We tried to look at the possibilities, but since then it was clear to us that he wanted to stay at Ineos.”

Bora-Hansgrohe, EF-Education EasyPost, and Trek-Segafredo were all linked to the Olympic champion’s signature, with the German outfit reportedly offering a deal worth 5 million euros per season.

According to sources, Ineos Grenadiers eventually countered, and all indications are that Pidcock will re-sign with his current team. A source close to Ineos Grenadiers told VeloNews that the deal was “99 percent done,” even though whispers of a possible deal with Bora were still filtering through as late as last week.

“We shared some talks, starting at the world championships in U.S.,” Guercilena said. “We just talked and had an understanding about the situation, but it never felt like he was really on the market because it felt like if Ineos had reached a certain target then Pidcock would have stayed.”

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Guercilena’s policy over the last few seasons is built around signing young riders and developing them into proven stars. There are obvious leaders with experience in the team, such as Mads Pedersen, Jasper Stuyven, and Bauke Mollema, but those riders have been supplemented by a raft of younger athletes.

Quinn Simmons, Antonio Tiberi and the highly rated Mattias Skjelmose Jensen lead the line for a new generation of riders coming through, and Guercilena admitted that the team’s investment in scouting had almost tripled in the last few seasons.

“We know where we are in the peloton. We try and be competitive in the important races,” he said. “We invested a few years ago in a bunch of young kids and they’re starting to make steps. That’s the line and we’re supporting them full gas.

“Some of them are already making the next steps and that’s the main thing we have right now. We have the pillars in the team with Mollema, Ciccone, Pedersen and Stuyven but then we have the younger riders, and that’s the direction in which we’re going.”

Trek-Segafredo building from the bottom up

With so many of the biggest stars under longterm contracts with their existing teams, the general consensus is that WorldTour squads need to sign riders faster and at a younger age.

That’s certainly been Trek-Segafredo’s approach over the last few campaigns, but the team still remains on the lookout for experienced riders, too. Should the right grand tour rider be available this year Guercilena will make a move into the transfer market, but the current priority is to develop what’s already within their inhouse program.

“I think that these days you have to develop your riders internally because hiring them is getting more and more expensive,” he told VeloNews.

Also read: How Trek-Segafredo’s bet on youth paid off

“You have the situations now where the big riders are locked into situations for five or six years and so the only real option is to build up internally.

“We’re scouting but we often suggest that riders should race in the U23 ranks for a couple of seasons,” he continued. “You can look at power data at 16 or 17 but that doesn’t tell you whether the athlete has everything they need to be a rider. You need to develop more skills than just physiological talent. We’re like football now in that we’re approaching riders at a young age to offer them support and knowledge. We also want to offer them a certain level of help so that they can arrive at the next step with a certain level of integrity.

“We’ve doubled, even tripled what we are spending on talent scouting when compared to five years ago,” Guercilena said. “For the last two years we’ve had a dedicated ex-rider, Markel Irizar, who is our scout. That’s a trend that you see in each team and it’s needed. Teams are looking at five-year projections now, so you can never sleep.”

Waiting to see if big GC names could be available

Should the American team decide to dip their toes in the market for a grand tour leader there are a number of potential options.

Richard Carapaz and Adam Yates are both free to sign with rival teams unless Ineos can reach agreements with both riders on contract extensions. Tom Dumoulin is at the end of his current deal with Jumbo-Visma. Simon Yates, Wilco Kelderman and Nairo Quintana are also all out of contract for 2023.

“That’s a good question, and I’d like one grand tour rider but there’s not that many on the market,” he said. “You have riders like Ciccone and Skjelmose Jensen who are still young. We’d like to see where they can get to in the classifications. Then for the future, we’ll have a look to see who is available. We have to be very attentive at the U23 level though. If the top riders are really available on the market then we will play the game but we’ve invested in the young guys and we’d like to see them develop.”

For Ciccone, 2022 is a huge season. The Italian climber is 27 and despite numerous opportunities has yet to establish himself as the grand tour rider Trek-Segafredo hope that he would become.

He hasn’t finished a grand tour since 2019, although he was in contention for a high overall place in last year’s Giro d’Italia until he was forced to abandon in the last few days. Guercilena has shown patience with his rider’s development, but he acknowledged that this was a critical season in terms of Ciccone’s path.

“Yeah for sure. He has to prove if he’s staying in GC or if he’s a mountain stage chaser,” he said. “We need to check where his position is in the GC. It’s a very important season for him.”

Netflix series: ‘It’s something good for cycling’

Away from rider recruitment, one of the biggest talking points in the last few weeks has surrounded the news of Netflix’s future involvement in a Tour de France docu-series. The project will trace the fortunes of eight teams in this year’s race with a first series set to be broadcast in the spring of 2023.

Trek-Segafredo are not among the first batch of teams to be involved, but Guercilena pointed out that his squad could potentially make it into future series and that the visibility that Netflix would bring to the sport was only a bonus for cycling.

“Clearly this is something that’s good for cycling. It gives cycling in general more visibility and it’s understandable that you can’t have 20 teams in the game, otherwise it’s too complicated and no one will come out of it well. We see from the news that some teams have been selected for the first series. It would have been a pleasure to be in but other teams have been selected. Let’s see if there’s another chance in the future but overall this is a good thing for cycling,” he said.

“It would have been a pleasure to have been involved because it’s a great project but there’s not a lot to be done right now. If it’s Netflix making the call there’s not much we can do but we’ve seen with Formula One there is a benefit and other teams can be involved later. We’re always open to having more doors.”