Trek-Segafredo General Manager Luca Guercilena shares 2019 reflections and 2020 expectancies
When bikes were loaded into the truck on October 22 at the Tour of Guangxi, the 2019 Trek-Segafredo season officially came to an end. 2019 was memorable with numerous unforgettable wins and achievements.
In the men’s team, Bauke Mollema had the best year of his career, and youngsters like Mads Pedersen and Giulio Ciccone had absolute breakthrough seasons. The women’s team exceeded expectations in its maiden voyage with 9 out of the 12 women netting wins, and Lizzie Deignan’s comeback season highlighted with an emotional victory in the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour.
Looking back across the span of 285 days of men’s racing and 80 days of women’s races, General Manager Luca Guercilena reflected about the highs, the lows, and rider growth he witnessed in 2019.
When Mads Pedersen clinched the World Championship title, and Bauke Mollema Il Lombardia a few weeks later, the men’s team ended their season on an elevated high. It was especially rewarding after the team struggled for the first part of the year and underachieved for most of the season.
“In the first months of 2019, there was an undeniable lack of results,” Guercilena said. “We had a terrible crash at Algarve with Degenkolb and Stuyven and lost a lot of our hopes. But we were able to reverse the course, we worked hard to improve and, in the end, the effort paid off. Since the Giro d’Italia and Giulio’s Ciccone’s ride into the spotlight, it has been a crescendo, culminating in an extraordinary finale.”
Other victories in 2019 for the men’s team that felt particularly sweet for Guercilena included Bauke Mollema’s and Giulio Ciccone’s efforts in the Giro that brought the team to a top-five general classification (GC) finish, a stage win and the desirable blue climbers jersey.
Guercilena also included Ciccone’s stage victory in Tour du Haut Var in February as a top moment. It showcased Ciccone’s strength and ability to compete at the highest level and was an early indicator of the breakthrough season the young Italian would end up having.
From the inception of the women's team, we had a clear direction to give riders equal support to the men.
The Trek-Segafredo women started 2019 strong, winning its maiden race at the Tour Down Under and the Melbourne Criterium, then continuing its winning ways on European soil with three of four stages at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana.
The team then experienced a dip in performance, unable to capture one of the big WorldTour spring Classics and with only an 8th place GC and best Italian rider jersey to show in the Giro Rosa. But similar to the men, they regrouped and finished out the season on a high, taking victories in WorldTour races Emakumeen Bira, Ovo Energy Women’s Tour, and the prestigious Vargada WestSweden Team Time Trial.
“2019 was a step forward for Trek-Segafredo women and, above all, we saw the team emerge during their first season with great style,” Guercilena said. “From the inception of the women’s team, we had a clear direction to give riders equal support to the men. The goal was to start the season with great results from the gun and to leave a mark early. And we wanted to give the women our fullest support at every possible level.”
That support was evident and carried the women through a successful maiden season to finish third in the WorldTour team rankings.
On both teams, Guercilena witnessed leadership growth. Trek-Segafredo’s General Manager saw immense efforts from Lizzie Deignan, who returned from maternity leave and immediately resumed an active leadership role on the women’s team. “That’s big,” Guercilena said. “It was not easy, and as soon as she was back from maternity leave, she was a leader right away.”
On the men’s side, Guercilena said that while he expected great riding from Giulio Ciccone during his first Trek-Segafredo season, he was pleasantly surprised to see the leadership role he took within the team as well. “Giulio was coming from a Pro Continental team, a second-tier division, and he was immediately able to perform and deliver results,” Guercilena said.
Guercilena also noticed its young talents Mads Pedersen and Matteo Moschetti taking significant ownership over the team’s performance and feeling a personal responsibility to take it to the next level. “I saw Pedersen suffering a lot in the Classics when [the team] was not going well,” Guercilena said. “It is a good sign because he was feeling responsible for the results, showing that he really cares about the team.”
This is the type of spirit that Trek-Segafredo deliberately cultivates: choosing riders who care about the responsibilities to their teammates as much as race results. One way Guercilena nurtures that spirit is to support young riders whose technical abilities and personalities can contribute to positive team growth and results.
“Young riders have a greater willingness to learn and an ability to listen,” explained Guercilena. “Our relationship with them can develop deeply, and it must be based on teaching, but also on their learned ability to listen to and understand teammates’ feedback, especially at an emotional level.”
Trek passed on its culture to the team: working with passion and positive energy, thinking globally, being open-minded, receptive and, of course, aiming to be best-in-class.
The culture of support for riders emanates directly from Trek Factory Racing’s approach. Trek Factory Racing is a conglomerate of Trek-supported athletes and teams racing not only on the road but also in mountain biking, triathlon, and cyclocross. “Trek passed on its culture to the team: working with passion and positive energy, thinking globally, being open-minded, receptive and, of course, aiming to be best-in-class,” Guercilena said. He pointed to the importance of managing energy and stress levels as much as riding outcomes.
“Cycling in the new millennium is very stressful for the riders. In addition to competitions, we have to consider the increasing time spent on travel – sometimes intercontinental – training camps and extra activities for the sponsorships’ activations,” Guercilena explained. “To manage all these aspects and ensure maximum competitiveness, we must plan everything down to the last detail. We need to make choices, define targeted objectives, evaluate performances after each race and correct promptly where necessary. And doing all this without forgetting a fundamental component: the human being.”
Guercilena laid out Trek-Segafredo’s strategy as one that invests in the current riders while scouting for new, young talent and maintaining that investment for long-term outcomes, not just immediate results.
“We are giving new impetus to the scouting and growth of young talents,” explained Guercilena. “We are talking about riders of 18-20 years old whose personality, as well as their physique, is still in the process of being formed and defined. Investing in young riders is a far-sighted choice, but there are risks involved. You can trust, work on growth, but you cannot be sure that a talent blossoms in a leading professional or even a champion. There is a risk, but it can be minimized, especially by approaching the rider with realism and patience.”
Looking ahead to the 2020 season, both women’s and men’s teams have big goals. “In 2020, our horizon is expanding,” Guercilena said. For the women, he would love to see a Monument victory.”
Monuments are the oldest and most prestigious one-day races, and winning one is held in high esteem in the world of cycling. For the men, Guercilena said momentum is building, and it is their job to deliver a competitive performance in every single race.
It may sound simple, he said, but it is a tall order. Guercilena looks forward to the type of energy that the addition of Vincenzo Nibali will bring to the team. Nibali is an Italian star with wins in all three Grand Tours: Vuelta a España in 2010, Tour de France in 2014, and the Giro d’Italia in 2013 and 2016.
“For both men and women, Trek-Segafredo is a team that has evolved and, potentially, can be one of the dominant teams in the world,” Guercilena stated. “We are on the eve of our seventh year of activity and the fifth with Segafredo as our main partner. It was the first year the women were together; they had to figure out how each other races and managed a very successful year. We expect them to be even better in their second year. Year after year, we have strengthened the project, broadening our horizon – I believe we are on the cusp of having our best season yet.”