Yesterday’s finish of stage 14 in Lyon was one we have become accustomed to seeing this season, as an Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider produced a devastating kick in the final 200 metres which propelled him to victory. Only it wasn’t Mark Cavendish on this occasion but his young Italian teammate – and roommate – Matteo Trentin, who took his maiden professional win in the city which hosted the finish of the first stage of the very first Tour in 1903.
The story so far
While still an amateur in 2011, Trentin won the under-23 road race at the Italian national championships. This quickly drew the attention of Quick Step, and he turned pro with the newly christened OPQS in 2012. In his rookie year he gained experience in several of the spring classics and a number of WorldTour races. This season, he quickly produced solid results after missing the classics with a broken wrist.
He claimed second place in a stage at the Tour of Turkey before riding his first grand tour at the Giro, where he formed an integral part of the team which helped Cavendish to five victories. He also added a fifth place himself on the hilly fifth stage won by John Degenkolb.
That form earned the 23-year-old a key spot in the train for the Tour: he is the last-but-one man in the train ahead of Gert Steegmans, Cavendish’s lead-out. That pivotal role is an indication of how much trust the team places in his talent and racing ability.
He opened his Tour account with a fifth place on the crash-laden opening stage. Afterwards, he talked about his experience:
In Lyon yesterday he escaped in the defining 18-man breakaway, just a day after he had had to dig deep driving the echelons which put Marcel Kittel out of contention early on.
It’s my first win as a pro, a nice way to start.
Nonetheless, he had the physical strength to stay in touch in the cagey closing kilometres, and the mental strength not to panic when he found himself well back in the pack on the final straight, patiently waiting and saving himself for one big kick with 200 metres remaining to win the stage. It was positively Cav-esque.
If he gets his own chances, he turns it into a win and that’s pretty impressive. He’s a really good lead-out guy, but he can do more than that.
OPQS team manager Rolf Aldag
It’s still too early in his career to work out exactly what Trentin’s best role within the team might be. He could well become a lead-out specialist or possibly even a sprinter in his own right, but perhaps he might be best suited to the hills and cobbles of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix.
At 1.79 metres tall and 74kg in weight (according to the OPQS website), he’s similar in size to Sylvain Chavanel. If that’s the direction he chooses to develop in, there is no better place for him to learn than at OPQS, and with Chavanel now 34 and Tom Boonen not far short of 33, there is an opportunity for the next generation of great classics riders to be born within the team. Trentin, Zdenek Stybar and maybe Michal Kwiatkowski are all possible successors, whose moments could come sooner rather than later.
For now, though, Trentin himself states that he’s still open-minded about his future:
After two years of professional cycling, I’ve tried almost everything. I did the classics, I did one grand tour [the 2013 Giro] and I do the second [the Tour] in the same year. For sure I love the classics but I think I have to grow more to be sure if I’m to be this rider or that rider. We can see in a few years.
At 23, time is certainly still very much on Trentin’s side. The talent is there, that maiden win is now under his belt, and with Cavendish as a roommate there is no better role model in terms of both a fiery will to win and how to finish off a sprint. We’ll be seeing a lot more of Matteo Trentin in the years to come.