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Trek-Segafredo’s overall ambitions at the Giro d’Italia will become clearer at the conclusion of the stage to Mount Etna as their riders look to come through the first mountain stage of this year’s race.
After three days of racing the team has Bauke Mollema in eighth, Mattias Skjelmose in 16th, and pre-race leader Giulio Ciccone in 39th, at just over a minute down on the maglia rosa.
It’s still incredibly early in the race and objectives can change at this point but Mollema was originally posted to the Giro d’Italia in order to track stage wins, while Ciccone was the provisional team leader, and Skjelmose was making his grand tour debut as a wildcard option.
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The stage 2 time trial dented Ciccone’s early campaign but Etna provides the Italian with the perfect terrain to rebound up the overall standings.
“He didn’t have a perfect preparation but most of the GC guys were sick,” Trek-Segafredo team director Gregory Rast told VeloNews on the morning of stage 4.
“He was good in Tirreno with 10th and then he was sick between there and Catalunya, and then after Catalunya he was really, really sick. But when you read the news there weren’t many guys who came through this period without sickness. He’s ready now, and he’s done the training and the work, but we need to go day-by-day with him. He can still be top-ten but the preparation was far from perfect.”
Skjelmose, on the other hand, hasn’t put a foot wrong since the Giro started four days ago, and Trek-Segafredo has long-term ambitions for its 21-year-old who has seamlessly transitioned into the WorldTour over the last couple of seasons. This might be his first three-week adventure but the young all-rounder is a potential dark horse for the white jersey.
“Ciccone is still our leader but with Mattias he’s also trying to do a grand tour result. This is his first grand tour and we’re taking it week by week because we can’t send him here and tell him to do a result. We’ll see how far he goes and we’ll give him freedom. If Ciccone is good then Mattias will stay with him, and then we’ll have two guys there. Bauke is still going to target stages.”
Etna has the potential to clarify the hierarchy between Ciccone and Skjelmose but Rast is also well aware – having raced 10 grand tours during his career – that seconds won and lost in the opening week can mean little when the race enters its often most difficult period in the final stretch.
“Today will be a good indication for GC but you know how it is,” said Rast.
“If you lose a minute today a top-10 result is not over because the second and third weeks it’s just harder. If you lose a minute today you can’t be too disappointed if you can start to get better. Ciccone lost time in the time trial and to be on the podium, it’s not good, but top 10 or top five, we’re not going to give up.
“Mattias mentally really focused on this. He took the worst of it with the crash at Liege and had to work hard to start here. He has full focus here and we’ll go all in for a GC and we’ll see where he is after the three weeks.”