By David Hunter
2014 was a very promising year for Sacha Modolo. Having made the switch from Bardiani to Lampre-Merida, a lot was expected of the fast man. He delivered some excellent results, but bad luck and ill health stopped him from achieving more.
His season started with a bang! He took a stage win against Peter Sagan in Tour de San Luis, thanks to a great lead-out by Max Richeze. The Argentine rider even managed to take third place, in the stage.
Back in Europe, Modolo won both Trofeo Palma and Trofeo Ses Salines. It was very important to show his new team that he was a winner. He gave Lampre something they had been missing, a sprinter who wins stages. It was there first sprint wins since Petacchi in 2012, a quite incredible statistic for a World Tour team.
Continuing his hot streak, he won stage 1 of the Volta ao Algarve. This was a nice victory as the World Champion was on lead-out duties,
“It gave me the confirmation to be important and essential for Lampre-Merida.”
They got more confirmation in De Panne, with 2 stage wins. A sprinter feeds off confidence and Modolo was now flying,
“I beat Kittel, Demare and Kristoff. It gave me the confidence to think big.”
It seemed that both Modolo and his team were delighted with his start to 2014. Whilst Kittel and Greipel could count on a whole team dedicated to them, Modolo had to rely upon a small group of helpers. Key to them all was Max Richeze. A perfect example of this was in the Tour de Suisse. It was stage 5 and we had a very tricky corner, with 500m to go. As a sprinter, you must have complete trust in you lead-out man’s ability to time his attack correctly,
“He knew everything, but not so tight(in the corner) in fact we were very strong.”
Only a handful of riders made it through the corner, as Cavendish crashed. It left Modolo and Sagan to battle for the stage,
“I had beaten Sagan in San Luis, but it was my first race win in the WT, for me was the most important.”
With his first win in the World Tour, Modolo approached the Tour de France with a lot of confidence, but disaster struck,
“It was hard to accept the fact of being sick and going home after the 2nd stage. I had high expectations and expected to be fighting in more than one stage, and it would have changed my career … An opportunity lost.”
He retuned in the Tour of Poland but was lacking his usual acceleration and missed out on some more wins,
“I went to Poland to train for the Eneco Tour. I was there but I was not competitive just because of the disease in the Tour and I was not 100%. In Eneco, I crashed and had to stop and so I was no longer able to be competitive until Beijing.”
A frustrating couple of months passed before Beijing and in the final stage, Sacha reminded everyone of his quality, with a hard fought win,
“I needed it. I came from a difficult period and to finish the season with a win, served as a start to 2015.”
With 2015 around the corner, the focus falls on Lampre-Merida. They have one of the fastest riders in the world, will they give him a train to match?
“This year, Lampre-Merida wanted to see what I could do. Now they understand me and especially what I can do and have added a couple of runners to my train … I think that in 2015 we can do much more.”
One thing is for certain, Richeze will be by his side. They are developing into an excellent pairing, capable of greatness,
“I blindly trust him and I know he would give his soul to me.”
In the weird and wonderful world of sprinting, this is the type of relationship needed between sprinter and pilot. As Sacha sets his sights on 2015, his goals are simple,
“Do better. Be competitive in the races that count and in the classics.”
Lampre-Merida have a sprinting superstar on their hands. With the right support, he’s capable of achieving some big results in 2015, and I think we’ll see him on the podium many times.
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