Today I’m all about Italy’s biggest cycling team, Lampre-Merida. Now that Italy’s biggest race is back on Italian soil, they can count on plenty of home support.
Who are their sponsors?
Lampre is an Italian producer of pre-coated steel, while Merida is a Taiwanese bike manufacturer and one of the biggest names in the cycling industry. They’ve sponsored a successful mountain biking team (Multivan-Merida) since 2004, and came on board as a sponsor for the Lampre road team in 2013.
They’re the only Italian-owned team left in the UCI WorldTour (the highest level of competition in pro cycling), a stark contrast from the turn of the century when there’d be five or six Italian teams contending for the win at any race you care to name.
Rider for today’s stage
Though Marcel Kittel has dominated the sprints thus far at the Giro, Italian sprinter Sacha Modolo is a decent chance to take the win in today’s flat fourth stage from Cantanzaro to Praia a Mare. He won two flat stages of last year’s Giro in sprint finishes, including one just outside his hometown.
He’s been in form this season as well, winning two stages of the recent Tour of Turkey and beating sprinters like Lotto-Soudal’s André Greipel and Wilier-Southeast’s Jakub Mareczko in the process. He’s capable of getting over lumpy hills towards the end of flatter stages – he’s finished inside the top ten of Milan-San Remo twice – so I’m tipping he’ll be able to hang on to the peloton over the final hills of today’s stage, where other sprinters like Mareczko or Orica-GreenEDGE’s Caleb Ewan may get tailed off the back.
When Matej Mohoric (pronounced Matt-ay More-rich) won the junior road race world championship in Valkenburg in 2012, at the age of 17, he was identified as one of the top talents of the rising junior crop.
When he pedalled while sitting on his top tube on a rain-slicked descent on the way to winning the under-23 road race title in Florence in 2013 (which would be replicated by both Michal Kwiatkowski and Peter Sagan on the way to winning world titles in 2014 and 2015), he became the first rider ever to win the junior and under-23 titles in consecutive years.
Obviously, such a big win meant that the buzz surrounding the young Slovenian intensified.
By the time he announced that he’d be turning pro with Cannondale for the 2014 season, the cycling world was forced to take notice of a bright young talent ready to take the pro peloton by storm.
Since then however, Mohoric has struggled to make the impact expected of him, and he left the Cannondale outfit for Lampre-Merida at the end of last year without a pro win to his name.
He seems excited to be on board the Italian team for the next two years – he speaks fluent Italian, English and German as well as his native Slovenian, so communication certainly won’t be a problem.
I’m still a believer in Mohoric’s abilities (he’s only 21 after all) – and he’s a chance to slip into a breakaway during the course of this year’s Giro.
Stage wins will be the order of the day for Lampre-Merida at this year’s Giro, mainly through Modolo or puncheur Diego Ulissi. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to match their haul of four stage wins from last year’s Giro, but every win they can get will count, especially as an Italian team.
Reason to cheer
They’re the biggest Italian team in the biggest Italian race of them all. Their kits are suitably flamboyant, and they’ve got some real talent on board in the form of Modolo, Ulissi and Mohoric.
Reason to jeer
If you can’t get on board with the corporate colours of fluoro pink, fluoro green and navy blue, we’ll understand – their Merida team bikes look like someone crashed into a pack of highlighters.