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Segafredo coffee to help Trek woo GC star

The Trek team knows it will have to fill Cancellara's shoes for the classics, but it also seeks a GC superstar for 2017 and beyond.

MILAN (VN) — Trek-Segafredo will look different in one year with a new classics leader and a grand tour star. The team’s new sponsor Segafredo, and increased budget, came too late for 2016, but it is already planning big for 2017.

The American team wants to find a classics leader to replace Fabian Cancellara after he retires in 2016, but it also aims to become a bona fide grand tour contender by signing a new stage race star.

“Trek took over the license [in 2014] when Leopard stepped out, and we like the profile we built, with the classics team around Fabian, but it’s just a certain part of the year,” Trek’s VP of product development, marketing and creative design, Joe Vadeboncoeur told VeloNews.

“We’d still like to chase the classics, but also take on the grand tours. That does require more of a budget than we had in the past. This is Fabian’s last year, we will build around that, then we’ll be able to stop and re-think, maybe replace him with a big star in the classics, but also have the opportunity to go after the grand tours.”

Sport director Dirk Demol said that the three-year deal with coffee giant Segafredo will help the team woo new classics heavies. The same idea will apply to grand tour leaders.

The team has Canadian Ryder Hesjedal, 35, the 2012 Giro d’Italia victor, and Dutchman Bauke Mollema in its roster for 2016, but it is looking to bring in someone with a guaranteed punch in the three-week races. Vadeboncoeur agreed that Nibali is a logical choice with Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) settled into their teams.

“There aren’t many [available]. Contador is retiring and many are locked into contracts,” Vadeboncoeur added. “Segafredo gives us freedom, it’s long-term, so even if we don’t have the right GC team for 2017, we’ll have freedom to put it together for the coming years.”

Nibali is one of only six cyclists to win all three grand tours, putting him even with Contador and former stars like Eddy Merckx. Though Alexandre Vinokourov said that there is a 99 percent chance he will re-sign Nibali for 2017, their on-and-off relationship seems to suggest otherwise. La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper also reported that famed sport director Giuseppe Martinelli could jump ship with Nibali.

Budget details are kept close, but the Trek team should have around $20 million. That does not put it in the stratosphere of Sky or BMC Racing, but it is in a good place for the future. The Segafredo contract runs for at least three years, through 2018.

“If it was only 15 million euro [$16.3m], we wouldn’t be talking about grand tour hopes,” Vadeboncoeur said. “It’s significantly more than that.”

Vadeboncoeur added that the deal with Segafredo felt natural given how many bike rides involve coffee stops. It works the other way around, too. Founder Massimo Zanetti counts 50 percent of Segafredo’s $1.4 billion sales in the U.S. and said that president Barack Obama drinks his Kauai coffee in the White House.

“I had probably had 20 conversations with companies in the last two years. Most decided they weren’t going to get into cycling,” Vadeboncoeur explained.

“The general reason? If it’s an American company, they all talk about Lance Armstrong, unfortunately, which we know is the past. If it’s a European brand, I think it’s a little on the expensive side. Salaries are high and there are many days of racing, so budgets are big, million dollars of sponsorship. Those companies can spend that kind of money elsewhere, they have a lot of options at that level.

“I backed out of talks with some companies because they did not fit well with cycling. Some of the companies didn’t seem like ones to have a long-term future together. Cycling and mining or oil companies don’t go well together, but cycling goes well with coffee companies.