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Don’t ask Matteo Trentin about the oh-so-close world championships. He’s answered every question and the reply is always the same: “I rode close to the perfect race, I just found someone who else was better than me. There’s not much else to it.”
While he’s still upset by a close second-place at the Yorkshire worlds, what he does get excited about are the northern classics. With his move to CCC Team in a two-year deal, the Italian is hoping strength in numbers will help him push toward a top-3 monument podium.
Trentin will bring much-needed firepower to CCC alongside Greg Van Avermaet, who was often alone throughout the 2019 classics campaign. The arrival of Trentin will give both riders more options in the decisive moments of the one-day battles across Belgium, France, and Italy.
Van Avermaet can help Trentin, and vice-versa. Both are hoping it’s a match made in classics heaven.
“If you see last year, we were one of the few riders without teammates in the final,” Trentin told journalists. “I am maybe quicker in the finish, so maybe he can attack at get the gap. Then I can sit on the wheel like Quick-Step has done in the past. And he is also pretty quick, so if I go, he can sit on the wheel. If you play your card to win, someone has to chase. This is how Quick-Step wins so much.”
Trentin was once part of the Quick-Step dynasty, turning pro with the Belgian super-team in 2012. He slowly worked his way into the classics rotation, but never earned captain stripes. A fast finisher with victories in all three grand tours, Trentin slotted out of the crowded Quick-Step machine to find space at Mitchelton-Scott.
He quickly discovered it’s not easy racing against his former team. Although Trentin was often in the mix in the decisive moments of the classics, Quick-Step would have the advantage in numbers. If someone attacked, another could sit back.
Trentin is hoping to mimic part of that strategy with his move to CCC. He’ll link up with Van Avermaet, a rider with strikingly similar characteristics.
“If you want to win, you don’t race against each other,” he said. “We can complement each other. You have more chances with strong teammates. We were both there in the last couple of years. My stronger point is my sprint, that’s why we can help each other. If I am on the front, he can sit behind. For sure we can complete each other. It’s logic.”
Trentin has been knocking on the door of a classics breakout the past few seasons. At Quick-Step, he was firmly on domestique duty during April, getting his chance to shine in other parts of the calendar. In 2018, he was seventh at Gent-Wevelgem, but crashed out of Paris-Roubaix with a nasty back injury. Trentin came back this season stronger than ever, with five top-10s in major spring classics.
“I want to make a step forward in the big classics,” he said. “I was always there, but sometimes I was never in position to get on the podium. My aim is to get better in the classics, and try to get the most victories I can.”
At 30 years old, he now has the depth and experience to truly take on the monuments. Despite a bevy on younger riders swarming into the peloton, the longer-distanced monuments typically favor more veteran riders. Trentin is hoping he’s riding into his best years. And with Van Avermaet as an ally, he’s confident they can present a formidable duo.
Trentin downplayed any sort of tension between the two, insisting that both realize they’ll each have better chances for victory if they race together in a cohesive team strategy.
“We haven’t spoken about the classics, but we are both professional, and we know it’s an advantage to have both of us on the team, rather than against each other,” he said. “My base level is better than last year. There is always space for improving. From where I was in 2012, with the numbers I am doing now, I could have 20 races.
“The world of cycling has risen much higher than people think. You cannot see it from the outside. It looks boring on the climbs because no one attacks, but it’s because everyone is on the absolute maximum. The top group is bigger and bigger.”
Trentin realizes that in today’s peloton the winning differences don’t come as much from pure strength as they do from tactical plays, swings of luck (both bad and good), and strong teamwork.
Trentin is hoping to turn those seventh places and top-10s into podiums and maybe even victories. If there’s one for him and another for Van Avermaet, even better.
“If you are alone, you cannot play any more for the victory,” Trentin said. “If you are the strongest, you can pull off the front. If not, you have to play off the others.”
— Nicolas Van Looy contributed to this report