Big Year Ahead In 2014
After a fairly successful transitional year in 2013, Lampre-Merida look to build upon their success, in 2014. They managed to achieve 16 victories this year, but not one from a flat sprint. Their DS thought that they were “good, without being perfect.” He was also pleased with “the union of the group.”
As for the lack of a sprint win, he highlighted the loss of Alessandro Petacchi, as a major contributing factor. He is encouraged with their options for 2014 with Modolo, Richeze, Cimolai, Ferrari and Bonifazio, “I think this year we will win sprints.”
Their biggest star of the season was the wonderful Diego Ulissi, with 5 wins. He has the full confidence of his team and Matxin couldn’t speak highly enough of his young rider, “he has the chance of being truly world class” said the DS and on a personal level, “he behaves like a true champion.” He gave the fullest of backing, “we believe in Diego, till the death!” As a rider, you can’t really ask for more than that.
Lampre-Merida have lost one of their stars in Michele Scaponi, as he is moving to Astana, after 3 years with this squad. He is a big loss for the team, “losing him is difficult, he is an extraordinary person and I respect him so much, as do the whole squad. He will be missed.”
Thankfully for the team they have a ready-made replacement, in the form of world champion, Rui Costa. He arrives with the rainbow jersey on his back and the Tour de France in his sights, “Rui will be our leader for the tour, without pressure. With the whole team behind him, we will see how far he gets.” He sang the praises of his new star, “he is very professional, very humble and always thanks you for everything you do. He is a perfectionist.”
The changes to the course of Milan-SanRemo has brought a lot of press coverage and some of the Lampre-Merida riders have already been to ride the end of the course. It is thought to rule out most sprinters and the team have many 1-day riders who could land the big prize. Matxin points out that the changes mean “there is no time to breath” but says that “it will stop many sprinters, but not all.” Who the team turns too will be very interesting, as they have many cards to play.
One of those riders, is the mercurial Pippo Pozzato, having won the race in 2006. The 32 year old is desperately searching to regain his form and there were signs of this towards the end of the year. He won Coppa Agostini and GP Ouest France, before finishing 5th in Montreal. Matxin was hopeful of success in 2014, “he has the class, has his head in the race, has cold blood and a great engine.” His focus will be on the cobbles in 2014, “his goal is Flanders and Roubaix, where he will be our point man.”
We ended the interview talking about some of his young riders: Jan Polanc and Mattia Cattaneo.
Polanc finished 15th in the Tour of Beijing and looks like being a big star. His DS agreed, “I know that this is our star of the future.”
Cattaneo won the baby Giro in 2011 but struggled this year. It was later found out that he had heart problems, but thankfully, these have now been resolved and Maxtin was very positive about his future, “The next Italian talent! I see him being able to perform at the same level as Nibali and he is one of the few Italians who can make the transition to finish high on GC in stage races.”
Maxtin is a very positive person, and when asked about his goals for 2014, he said,
“To become the best team in the world, in a few years. 2014 demonstrating that we are on track.”
A very exciting season beckons for Lampre-Merida.