After missing some targets in the first half of the season, the American-licensed team rounded out the year on a high with a world title for Mads Pedersen, a string of wins at second-tier one-day and stage races, and now Mollema’s monument. And to cap that, they were able to announce the signing of two further world champions, budding American star Quinn Simmons, and Italian U23 time trialist Antonio Tiberi.
Mollema’s win came off the back of a week of one-day races in Italy that had seen him placing highly, though just off the bookies’ radars with 4th, 5th, and 7th.
“The whole week in the Italian classics we were riding well already and didn’t win,” said Mollema after taking the Italian monument. “We were always in front in Emilia, Beghelli, Tre Valli and also Milan-Torino, so the motivation was really good in the team.”
Just as the win had always been just out of Mollema’s grasp in the week leading to Lombardia, so too has a major breakthrough result for the Dutchman. Mollema has long played the bridesmaid rather than the bride, consistently landing top-10s in Ardennes classics and grand tours. Until he soloed to success in Como, his flagship result had been victory at Clásica San Sebastián in 2016.
Mollema’s trajectory of near misses and a late score is a similar path to that taken by his team throughout 2019. Trek-Segfredo has posted a host of podium results in one day and stage races through the year, but never made the top step. However, by ending the season on a high, the team can look to carry confidence into next year’s cobbled classics, where they carry a strong shot at success.
While the 2019 classics were undoubtedly choked by Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s ‘wolfpack’, 2020 could see a different complexion to the spring races as the field levels slightly. Philippe Gilbert, long-time lead wolf at Quick-Step, heads to Belgian rivals Lotto-Soudal.
Like Quick-Step, Trek-Segafredo will also lose a veteran, with John Degenkolb also heading to Lotto-Soudal. Nonetheless, their string of late-season results should see the American-Italian team carry the confidence and punch to put up a good challenge in the northern classics.
The team’s young world champions Simmons and Pedersen don’t hide their ambitions to succeed on the cobbles. Coloradan native Simmons, who steps straight from junior ranks to the WorldTour, has his sights aimed high.
Having won junior Gent Wevelgem, 18-year-old Simmons has found a love of the pavé.
“Over the next two years, I hope to learn as much as possible and make big steps towards the goal of one day winning Paris-Roubaix,” he recently said. And with provisional spots on the start sheet at E3 Harelbeke and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in just a few months’ time, Simmons will soon start learning, fast.
The 23-year-old Pedersen has equally big ambitions, and similarly has experience on the stones having won the U23 Paris Roubaix. The Dane recently told Gazzeta dello Sport, “I want to win a classic monument, but it doesn’t have to be next year as world champion – just some time in the future.”
Though a cobbled monument may not come in 2020, Trek-Segafredo has the know-how and experience to make it happen, and that’s what drew Simmons.
“If you go way back to when Cancellara was racing for them and more recently with Degenkolb, you can see they know how to support a top classics rider,” he told VeloNews after the world championships.
It won’t just be on the cobbles that Trek-Segafredo will be hoping for success. The arrival of Vincenzo Nibali from Bahrain-Merida will give the team a figurehead to replace the departing Degenkolb. The Italian superstar will ensure the team stays front of mind through the year, joining Mollema in the Ardennes classics before Richie Porte comes to play a role with them in the grand tours.
“I’m finished with playing the underdog,” Pedersen said after his world championship win.
And it seems like his whole team is just about ready to step out from the shadows, from the cobbles of February through the Ardennes hills of April and the high mountains of summer.