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Coming off a stellar season in 2017, one that included four stage wins in the Vuelta a España, Italian rider Matteo Trentin moved from the Belgium team Quick-Step to Australia’s Mitchelton-Scott, where he’s expected to take over leadership duties in the classics. But last year back-to-back crashes in training and in Paris–Roubaix, left his hopes in shatters. However, Trentin returned late in the year to win the European Road Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, and this year he looks stronger than ever in the early-season races. So, on the eve of his nation’s mythic classic, Milan–San Remo, he could not have good legs at a better time.
Words/images by James Startt
PELOTON Magazine: Matteo, it’s great to see you riding so well again this year. After an injury-ridden season in 2018, you’ve already won three races this year with stages in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Vuelta a Andalucía. And although you didn’t win any stages at Paris–Nice, you were often in the front group or on the attack.
Matteo Trentin: Well, 2018 was really up and down. There were a couple of real ups, but some very low downs. After all of my injuries at the beginning of the season, winning the European Championship was nothing less than revenge. After my crash in Paris–Roubaix, I had to find a realistic goal to keep me motivated and focused. And in the end, the Glasgow course was really good for me and it was a very satisfying win. There were a lot of really good riders there like Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet and defending champion Alexander Kristoff. And I can tell you that nobody was just lining up to start. They were there for the same result as me. So it was a very satisfying win and it is very satisfying to be wearing the European champion jersey all year long.
PELOTON: You spent your formative years with Quick-Step, and I know that when you left Patrick Lefevere said that it was particularly tough to see you move on because you have been such a fixture on the team. What did the Quick-Step years give you?
Trentin: Well, they give you a lot of things, starting with the mentality. It is really incredible how they can motivate you on that team. Every rider, from the strongest to the weakest, performs at their best on Quick-Step. Part of that is because it is one of the few teams where you can see the leader pulling at the front of the bunch for another rider on any given day. Most teams, you just never see that; but I remember on Quick-Step, the first race I did with Mark Cavendish in 2013, and all of a sudden he was pulling at the front because Michal Kwiatkowski was in the leader’s jersey. That was amazing to see, and I have to say that this year with Mitchelton-Scott we have been working that way and it is really paying off as we already have 15 or 16 victories this year.
PELOTON: Well, one of the differences is that at Mitchelton-Scott, you have a bigger role in the classics. You are one of the team’s real leaders in the one-day races.
Trentin: Well, that was a real reason they brought me over. I had a good place on Quick-Step, and I had my chances for victory, but I definitely am more protected here. And now I just need to do something with it!
PELOTON: You have already won a lot of races, and even classics like Paris–Tours, but you have not won a monument. What are your ambitions going into the classics season this year?
Trentin: Well, my first ambition is simply to win something. I’ve done my homework and I hope firstly that I will stay healthy. My condition is good and I am probably even climbing better than in the past.
PELOTON: What classic makes you dream the most?
Trentin: Oh, wow…I would say either Milan–San Remo or Flanders. I’ve never quite been able to put it together for Paris–Roubaix, but San Remo and Flanders I feel I could really have a great ride.
PELOTON: Well, it seems that Milan–San Remo is ideally suiting for you because you are a sprinter that can get over climbs. And, plus, you are Italian.
Trentin: It was probably even better for me a couple of years ago when they also had the La Manie climb. It wasn’t that hard, but just hard enough to fatigue more of the pure sprinters over nearly 300 kilometers. That said, when it was there, the race finished often in a sprint and in the last years, even though it may be a bit easier on paper, often it doesn’t come down to a sprint. It’s pretty amazing really because, on paper, it is not that hard of a race, but like the Tour of Flanders, no bad riders win it.
PELOTON: And Roubaix?
Trentin: Well, I have never had a really good day at Roubaix. That said, I have had a really bad day. One year, I remember getting dropped at like 80 kilometers from the finish. I’ll never forget it because I was in this group of maybe five riders and nobody talked or chatted. There were just five of us riding, taking their turns at the front, just to finish. In any other race the guys would have dropped out. But Roubaix is like that. It is the only race that everybody wants to finish. It is the only race where riders will just smash themselves to finish. They just want to make it to the velodrome.
Milan San Remo will beheld this Saturday, March 23rd. 291km from Milan to San Remo.