18 victories and a bitter stroke of fate
Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS went through the full spectrum of emotions throughout the most recent racing season. The team competing on MERIDA BIKES got to celebrate stage wins at all three Grand Tours. But it also lost Gino Mäder in a tragic race accident, marking the saddest moment in the team’s history to date.
At the end of a season that stretched from January well into October, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS had won a total of 18 UCI-races. The first of these wins came at the start of the Tour Down Under courtesy of Phil Bauhaus, while Jonathan Milan delivered the year’s last victory at the Gree Tour of Guangxi. From the middle of June to the end of September, Matej Mohoric pulled off the feat of winning at least one stage in five consecutive stage races before riding MERIDA BIKES’ brand new SILEX model to a spectacular solo win at the gravel world championships held in Northeastern Italy. Apart from Mohoric, other riders of the team to win Grand Tour stages were Jonathan Milan, Santiago Buitrago, Wout Poels and Pello Bilbao.
As for the general classification of these races, riders of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS scored a series of top 10 result as well: Damiano Caruso finished the Giro d'Italia just off the podium in 4th, Mikel Landa finished the Vuelta a España in 5th and Pello Bilbao the Tour de France in 6th. Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS won the team classification at the Giro as well, and Jonathan Milan was donned the Maglia Ciclamino as the winner of the points classification in Rome. Following his first pro win ever, Fred Wright was competing in the English road champion's jersey for the second half of the season as well. All these successes put the team in 6th place of the UCI's team classification.
In mid-June, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS faced the saddest moment in its history at the Tour de Suisse. In the finale of the 5th stage Gino Mäder crashed badly on the decent of the Albula pass and died from the injuries sustained in that accident the day after. Pro cycling has lost a huge talent way too early with the Swiss rider, and his death sent shock waves through the ranks of pro cycling way beyond the team as such. Starting at the Tour de France, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS actively promoted the #RideforGino foundation that aims to keep up Mäder's commitment for environmental issues. The #RideforGino slogan made it onto the team jerseys and the helmets throughout the second half of the season, and the late Swiss rider was remembered at more than one victory celebration - and will be so in years to come.
As for the next season Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS will see a significant rejuvenation: With Mikel Landa, Hermann Pernsteiner, Filip Maciejuk and Jonathan Milan four riders are leaving the team while Heinrich Haussler had been forced to end his career in spring due to heart issues. With Nicolo Buratti and Antonio Tiberi, two young talents joined the team during the season and already proved their worth on the highest level of pro cycling. The most prominent new signing for 2024 is Norwegian Torstein Traeen. Add to this English climbing talent Finley Pickering and Alberto Bruttomesso as a promising young sprinter.
Compared to this year, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS will have a markedly younger line-up for 2024, with 13 out of 27 riders being 25 year-old or younger. The plan is to develop more young talent and get riders ready to join the World Tour through a cooperation with two feeder teams, being Italian Cycling Team Friuli ASD and Belgian Cannibal-Victorious U19 Development Team. MERIDA BIKES will be supplying these two feeder teams with its premium road bikes as well.
Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency