Team Director Adriano Baffi: “This project is absolutely beautiful. One year ago, we had a blank sheet of paper; now we have a full-grown structure that recruits and prepares young riders for their future in cycling.” The LEOPARD TREK Continental Team, led by Adriano Baffi, was started with the goal of promoting and developing Luxembourgish Cycling in the world. In its inaugural season, the team started with eleven young riders from seven different nationalities and gave them all an ideal learning experience. More than half of the roster scored a win, with Bob Jungels leading the ranks with six victories, including the prestigious overall win in Flèche du Sud, the U23 version of Paris-Roubaix and the Queen Stage in the Giro della Valle d’Aosta. Adriano Baffi: “We had some early wins, so we didn’t experience any pressure in the season’s first months. The wins in Flèche du Sud and Paris-Roubaix were obviously the sportive highlights of the season, also because we had put these races high in our priority list. But on another level, the fact that we were able to build such a strong and effective structure is my personal highlight. Most of the riders on our team came from the amateur levels: some were students or had day-time jobs to pay the rent. All of them really stepped up to the task and became better bike riders. The fans, the media and the race organizers saw us ride as a team the entire year round. We were always professional and lived up to our ‘true racing’ motto.” Baffi, who’s wealth of experience as a rider and as a sports director formed the base layer of the team’s structure, looks back at an intense season. Baffi: “This project was offered to me exactly one year ago and I didn’t hesitate for a minute to accept. I wanted to give back to cycling what the sport has meant to my life and it became my mission to work with the youth. This is very different from working with someone like Fabian Cancellara, but it is tremendously rewarding. One year ago, there was nothing. We didn’t even have riders when the project started. Then came the four Luxembourgish guys and later the other seven riders. I had no experience at all at the continental level, its races and organizers, the contracts and administration, etc. Step by step we built our team and staff came along. I was mostly alone with the responsibility, although I had a lot of help from Luca Guercilena and Markus Zingen.”
The roster for the 2013 will be composed of fourteen riders, two more than in 2012. Seven riders will be U23. The team will be very international, with 10 nationalities represented: Eugenio Alafaci (ITA – 09-08-1990), Jesus Ezquerra (SPA – 30-11-1990), Oliver Hofstetter (SUI – 16-01-1990), Alex Kirsch (LUX – 12-06-1992), Pit Schlechter (LUX – 26-10-1990), Fabio Silvestre (POR – 25-01-1990) and Joël Zangerle (LUX – 11-10-1988) will remain with the team.
The team will add seven new riders to its roster – Piero Baffi (ITA – 08-09-1990): rider with an attacking mind and a strong rouleur on undulating and flat roads. Piero is the son of Team Director Adriano Baffi. In 2012 he participated at the European Track Championships with the Italian national team and showed a lot of potential as a stagiaire for our team in the Giro di Padania. – Sean De Bie (BEL – 03-10-1991): in 2012 stage winner in Le Tryptique des Monts et Châteaux and second in Tour of Flanders U23. Sean is one of Belgium’s brightest prospects, a classics rider with a good sprint. He is also a former national cyclocross champion. He comes from a family that has produced some illustrious Belgian cyclocross men. – Max Durtschi (USA – 26-05-1991): The winner of the 2009 junior criterium and road race US National Championships will join the team as a strong and versatile rider. The former nordic ski racer from Idaho’s favorite race is Paris-Roubaix, where the team saw Bob Jungels win in 2011. – Kristian Haugaard (DK – 27-02-1991): another strong rider for the one-day races in the north. He came highly recommended to the team and has an all-round value. – Jan Hirt (CZE – 21-01-1991): also a 2012 stagiaire to the team, Jan is a strong climber and finished third in the Queen stage of the Tour de Slovaquie, taking fifth in the overall of that race. He climbed with the best in the Giro di Padania and showed a big potential for mountainous races from May-June onwards. – Daniel Klemme (GER – 29-12-1991): the brother of former Leopard Dominic Klemme, has a great sprint and will be the fast man on our team. Daniel had top-ten in Flèche du Sud and Thüringen-Rundfahrt and showed good form in the end of the season with three regional victories in a row. – Tom Thill (LUX – 31-03-1991): a strong time trialist, the young Luxembourg joins the team to help his leaders in all kinds of races. “We realize that it will be hard to match the 2012 season, but we will give it all we can. We will miss Bob, Julian, Alexandr and Giorgio, but that’s the nature of a development team: you are destined to start anew once your riders start winning. I hope that the new arrivals will show a lot of motivation and that the 7 riders that stay will be able to capitalize on what they have learned last year. Eugenio Alafaci, for example, finished 21 times in the top-ten of a race in the past season alone. In twelve of those races he was top-five and in four he was on the podium. I’m confident that he will be winning next season,” continues Adriano Baffi. “With these thirteen riders, we will be able to race a solid program with a lot of diverse racing. Results are of course important, as they are for any team, but our main goal remains to search and train talented young riders. We will share our experience with them and create opportunities for them to show their potential.” FOUR RIDERS MOVE ON
A tree is known by its fruits and LEOPARD TREK is proud to see four of its key riders move on to find a spot at WorldTour and Pro Continental teams.
– Giorgio Brambilla will wear the colors of Atlas Personal – Jakroo.
– Bob Jungels was offered a contract by RADIOSHACK NISSAN TREK, equally managed by Leopard SA, where he will race a light program and gather experience in one of cycling’s top tier teams. – Julian Kern, winner of the Queen Stage in Flèche du Sud, signed a contract with AG2R-La Mondiale.
– Alexandr Pliuschin, finally, will be part of the newly started IAM Cycling. Photo legend: the 2013 team poses for the picture in the ‘Modus Vivendi’ test center in Italy. Top left to right: Jan Hirt, Tom Thill, Kristian Haugaard, Fabio Silvestre, Piero Baffi, Joël Zangerle, Pit Schlechter, mechanic Frank Kristensen, soigneur Matthias Lukas, Eugenio Alafaci and team coordinator Markus Zingen. Bottom left to right: Sean De Bie, Jesús Ezquerra, team manager Adriano Baffi, Oliver Hofstetter, Alex Kirsch and Daniel Klemme. Max Durtschi is not on the photo.