After recovering from a rib fracture early in the year, Matteo Trentin is looking forward to his maiden season with Mitchelton-Scott.
During seven years at Quick Step, Trentin picked up stage wins in all three Grand Tours and won Paris-Tours twice. Renowned for his power and fast kick, the Italian amassed an impressive palmares and reputation, but was rarely thrust into Quick Step’s front line in the major classics – leading to his decision to join Mitchelton-Scott for 2018.
Rouleur caught up with the 28-year-old to discuss life after Quick-Step, missing out on the Vuelta green jersey, and leaving his comfort zone to pursue his own ambitions.
How are you settling into your new team?
It feels a little bit strange. Not strange – just different. But I have to say that [my team-mates] are all really good and I already feel part of the group. This group here has been the same for quite a lot of years and I feel I’m integrating into the team well. Of course, it helps speaking quite good English. The staff, riders and management have all helped me feel a part of the team. I’m still a step away from getting the Australian sense of humour and the slang, though.
Trentin was successful at Quick Step…when he was given his chance
What were your motivations behind leaving Quick Step?
At Quick Step I was feeling really good, but with all the champions they have there, there was always someone a little bit ahead of me in the pyramid. And I never made it to the top – although I won stages on all the Grand Tours. I got a good palmarès without being a captain, so I decided to give it a try.
Did you leave on good terms?
After seven years, I didn’t leave because I wasn’t feeling good in the team or riding badly. I still have a good relationship with the riders and directors. Friendship continues after the changing of a team. I always had a good and honest relationship with [Quick Step manager] Patrick Lefevre.
What were your options?
One of my options was staying at Quick Step. But [Mitchelton-Scott sports director] Matt White came to me already in 2016 to ask me what I’d like to do in the future and I still had a year left, so we postponed the discussions until the next year. They showed me the plan, what they were thinking about for me, what my role would be if I decided to move. I thought a lot about it and, in the end, I just decided that changing my comfort zone and having more responsibility and opportunity to be in the first row and have a team around me would probably be something I’d like to try and do 100% before I got too old.
The Italian would look to have more of a team built around him
What will be your role at Mitchelton-Scott?
In the classics I should be in the front line of the team. I should also have my opportunity when Caleb Ewan is not there for the sprints. And of course, if there’s a climber or a sprinter I’ve got to help, I’ve never had any problem working for others. So that doesn’t change. In a winning team, everyone has to do everything. When it’s your turn to work, you work, when the guys work for you, then the guys are going to work for you.
You only have just the one top ten finish in The Monuments. Do you now have the chance to improve that?
Yes. I have to improve that. Over the years, when you have to work [for others], when you come to the real finish, you don’t have anything left. I was tenth in Milan-Sanremo, I was third once in Harelbeke, and in the harder classics, I’ve always been there. But I’ve never really delivered a big result. Probably it will help having that little bit of extra responsibility knowing that I’m the guy who should be delivering.
Trentin’s been waiting in the wings for Classics leadership.
But you delivered four times on the Vuelta last year…
In the Vuelta I was in a good condition and the team was working around me – and I didn’t miss a victory. Sometimes responsibility makes people shit in their pants, but for me it was the opposite. I was just more confident with my possibilities – and after seeing the guys working all day for me, I knew that I needed to give them something back in return. You can’t go empty handed after all that work – you have to fight. It’s about changing your mentality.
Were you disappointed about losing the Vuelta green jersey to Chris Froome on the final day of the race?
Ergh! Everyone said that Chris Froome took the green jersey from me, but actually the green jersey was already with Chris before the start of the last stage. He decided to defend it. It’s his own choice – I cannot argue about someone deciding to defend the green jersey. Ok, he hasn’t got a picture of himself and his team-mates crossing the finish line when he won the Vuelta, but that’s his own choice. He and his team attacked the whole day on the circuit.
The Vuelta green jersey was not for keeps (although that could still change)
So, you did all that was asked of you – but it wasn’t enough?
I knew that I had to win the sprint and the stage. I won the sprint and the stage – I didn’t get the green jersey but I got four stages. Probably people remember that I won four stages more than [if I’d won] the green jersey in the Vuelta – not taking anything away from the green jersey. And if Froome crossed the line ahead of Wout Poels on the Angliru, he would have had the green jersey mathematically.
The fact that you didn’t win the green jersey probably says more about the points system…
The points system in the Vuelta is democratic, because it gives the same amount of points on each stage, but the Vuelta isn’t democratic. If you look at the points standings, I was the only sprinter in the top 20 – all the rest were climbers. It is what it is. If you have just three sprints during the race, then you cannot expect a sprinter to win the green jersey.
Will you ride the Tour de France alongside Caleb Ewan?
I normally will be on the Tour – but it’s so far away. I normally split the season in three – the classics, the middle part, which is usually the Tour, then the end of the year. But it’s too far away to think about now. I do an average of 82 or 83 race days a year so if you think too far ahead then it doesn’t work. There’s no way to focus on the Tour right now.
Hands-up if you’d like more responsibility. Trentin at the 2014 Tour
What’s your classics programme?
I’ll do Sanremo, then Harelbeke, Flanders, Roubaix, maybe Amstel. Then I’ll be off and go back, maybe, for the Dauphiné. We have a really strong classics team – not incomparable to Quick Step. We’ve got to be there in the races knowing that we can fight for the victories.
So, you won’t ride the Giro this year?
No, I have another baby coming at the start of May and, to be honest, there is nothing comparable to this. Ok, if the Giro was starting in my hometown, I’d probably do the Giro, but for the rest, it’s something above cycling.