Race News

A first gathering before the festive season


A first gathering before the festive season

Just before the Christmas holidays, the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM gathered for a training camp on the Croatian island of Hvar. During three days a selection of international media was invited to join the camp to get all the latest information about the team, its new signings and the plans for the upcoming season.

As an old wise saying in pro cycling goes, the end of one season signals the beginning of the next season. The BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM decided to live up to this saying: From December 7th to 19th, its entire squad for 2018 met up with the management and many caretakers and helpers, opting for Hotel Pharos as its base of operations, situated on the Croatian island of Hvar that is known for offering 311 sunny days per year on average. This training camp offered plenty of time for first performance tests and to set out the plans for the season ahead. Apart from that, the roads on the island of Var offer perfect conditions for long training rides, serving plenty of variety and a steady up and down with only a few flat sections, with the traffic being light in December. Towards the end of the two-week training camp, a dozen international cycling journalists got the opportunity to get in close touch with the team, to conduct one-on-one interviews with individual riders and to capture them in full action and in their spare time. The program for the media started with an official press conference in the historic centre of Hvar.

Team manager Brent Copeland looked back on the debut season of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, stressing the positives: „As for the number of wins, there still is potential to do better, and the team had to deal with some setbacks in terms of injuries. Still, the team scored many podium results, and with his win at il Lombardia and two overall podiums in the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España respectively, Vincenzo Nibali lived up to the high expectations. With 3rd place finishes in both the overall of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and the Spanish road championships, Ion Izaguirre showed what he’s capable of as an athlete when he is spared from serious injuries.“ As for the next season, Vincenzo Nibali will kick off his campaign in Argentina and focus on the Tour de France and the World Championships to be held on a mountainous course around Innsbruck as the two main targets. Apart from that, the captain of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM also wants to ride the Tour of Flanders and the Ardennes Classics such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Luckily, the news regarding the riders of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM that were struggling with serious injuries are encouraging: Following heart surgery, Ramunas Navardauskas, who had scored the first win for the team in Argentina, has gotten the okay from the doctors to resume his full training without restrictions. As for Ion Izaguirre who had fractured a vertebra in a crash at the opening time trial of the Tour de France, the injury has fully healed up. The same goes for Kanstantin Siutsou who had broken his left femur and for Heinrich Haussler who only got to ride a few races late in the 2017 season due to a knee injury.

As for the team bikes, a thin layer of clear coat is used rather than the regular dark blue paint, saving about 100 grams. Thanks to this the REACTO aero bikes are getting close to the UCI’s minimal weight of 6.8 kilograms, and the dark anthracite colour of the carbon shines through the clear coat. The trademark accents in red and gold remain unchanged for the second season, however. A selection of team riders went through a detailed analysis of their position on the bike making good use of Shimano’s Bikefitting system and the expertise of positions expert Robert Lechner. The resulting proposals for an optimized position will be implemented on the MERIDA road bikes step by step throughout the winter training and the early phase of next season. A great deal of attention went into the inclusion of the METRON 6D handlebar and stem combo that MERIDA developed together with the team’s cockpit sponsor FSA/VISION. Offering a highly ergonomic interface between rider and bike, this exceptionally aerodynamic cockpit saves 7 watts at a speed of 45kph, and yet it is significantly stiffer than a conventional stem and handlebar combination when it comes to a sprint and efforts out of the saddle. To avoid any issues related to an unfamiliar position on the bike, MERIDA and the team decided to start the switch to this relevant component long before 2018’s racing season starts for real.

To make sure that the new outfit and the new team bikes get plenty of screen time in TV coverage, the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM has bolstered its squad with a number of specific signings for 2018: With Domenico Pozzovivo, the team has signed one of Italy’s best climbers, and he will be the team’s captain at the Giro d’Italia in May. Both Gorka Izaguirre, Ion’s younger brother, and Matej Mohoric are strong all-round performers who won a stage each in last year’s Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, respectively. Experienced Slovene rider Kristian Koren will be a welcome reinforcement for the spring classics whereas Austrian Hermann Pernsteiner is a climber brought in as a support rider for mountain stages Grand Tours. Last but not least, young Ukrainian Mark Padun joins the team. A prolific winner in the under23 categories over a wide variety of types of terrain, Padun will get the opportunity to show his quality in World Tour races and to make the next step as a professional athlete. These reinforcements and the four riders that return from lengthy, injury-related breaks should contribute to a season 2018 that will be not just on par with the debut season of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM but may even surpass it.