By David Hunter
Luca Wackermann is destined for greatness. He won the Junior European Road Championship in 2009, aged 17. That day Barry Markus was second and Arnaud Demare rounded out the podium. Lampre closely monitored his progress and gave him a pro contract in 2012, aged just 20.
Signing pro at such a young age, indicated a great deal of confidence in a rider and he started to develop under the watchful eye of the Lampre coaches and staff.
In 2013, he successfully competed in many WT races, like the Tour de Suisse, Eneco Tour and the Tour of Beijing. It looked like 2014 was going to be his year to take the next step, in his career.
The year started well as he travelled to the Tour Down Under, with a rampant Diego Ulissi.
“It was a great experience, riding the Tour Down Under. It allowed me to train for two weeks in the warm Australian sun (in those days the temperatures touched 50 degrees) and run in a beautiful area. I must say, Australia was a country I had never visited and it was beautiful. Australia was a good start, I felt good. My job was to help Ulissi on GC and he finished 3rd.”
The Tour Down Under was a tremendous start to the year, for Lampre. Ulissi took a stage win and 3rd on GC. This was a great way to begin the year and Luca played his part, especially in the stage win, where he stayed with Ulissi until the end. The domestique duties weren’t over. Back in Europe this time at Paris-Nice, trying to help Rui Costa take the win.
“Paris-Nice, I think, is a mini Tour de France. It was nice but at the same time very tough; the second stage I crashed, after the fall I had some hard days, but I tried to help Rui Costa make the best ranking possible.”
“It was an honor to cycle and have as captain the world champion, especially someone like Rui Costa. He is a great captain as well as a great person.”
Costa claimed 2nd overall, behind Carlos Betancur. It was another good performance by the team and Luca even got involved in the stage 1 sprint. Not all riders would have enjoyed mixing with Bouhanni, Degenkolb, Meersman, Rojas and Farrar. Luca managed to take 7th, an excellent result considering he’s not a pure sprinter.
“Knowing that I have a good turn of speed, I tried to keep the best position in the sprint. I finished 7th, this I did not expect given the quality of the sprinters present.”
The rest of the season was a disappointed. A mixture of bad luck and ill health stopped Luca from being competitive in many races he had hoped to do well in.
“Surely it was not one of my luckiest seasons. I wanted to show a lot, and instead, when it was time to be seen I had a knee problem that stopped me for almost a month; then it was difficult to compete in the Dauphiné, I tried to keep up but it was tough, both physically and psychologically.”
“Later I had a period at altitude, but then I had the cytomegalovirus that weakened me for a month. At the end of September, I had a problem with a tooth that I hoped to have solved but it created different problems for me. I was fortunate that I had people around me who supported me well.”
In September it was contract renewal time. Lampre had invested a lot of resources into helping Luca develop. After a disappointing year, they had a decision to make.
“Lampre told me that I did not feature in their plans.”
The moment all pro cyclists fear. Time to get the staff working!
“I, with my agents, Alex and Johnny Carera looked around a bit, fortunately Neri-Sottoli came forward and I immediately accepted their offer of a 1 year contract.”
This represents a very interesting move. Yes, it’s a step down from the World Tour, but he finds himself joining a very successful team. It’s a team Luca will be allowed to develop and take on leadership duties.
“Is it a risk!? Yes!! Sure!! The risk (and hope) to find my own space and to finally prove that I can get big results and in turn I can help my teammates to achieve their goals. For me, the important thing is to be inserted into a compact group. That’s how I like to work.”
“I don’t know how I will manage the pressure of leading as I’ve never raced as the Captain.”
Don’t forget, despite being at Lampre since 2012, he’s still a young cyclist.
“Sometimes we forget that at 22 years old, there are guys who still ride among the amateurs. I still do not know exactly who I can become, as a cyclist. I manage uphill and I enjoy the time trial, which is a detail that I want to work on. I dream of winning the great classics, but who does not dream?!”
As the winners of the Italian Cup, the team will race the Giro d’Italia. They also always like to show themselves in the Italian one day races.
“The team has many goals, do not think only to the classic or the Giro, but we will focus on other prestigious one-day races or Italian stage races and international races. The final schedule is not yet completed but it is obvious that participation in the most important and prestigious races of the Italian calendar is a source of great satisfaction and great desire to prove our worth, both as a team and as a cyclist.”
Every Giro is special for Italians, but this one is extra special for Luca.
“Two stages come near Monsummano Terme, where I live with my partner Ilaria. The first arrival is Abetone, I know the climb, it is very hard, we’ll see. The next day from Montecatini Terme. Surely it is very exciting, eventually living here for almost five years, I feel a Tuscan by adoption, also the team has its headquarters here in Tuscany, so we have even more reasons to do well.”
A new team means a new bike and new ways of working. Luca is looking forward to the changes.
“Next year I will ride a Cipollini bike, thinking that as a child I wanted to be like him. It will not take me long to settle as I am ready to commit myself, as always, and to follow new directions.”
Not that Luca is short of advice, from cycling legends.
“I love to train with company. I often go out with Michele Bartoli, who besides being my trainer is also a dear friend.”
Luca knows he’s not the finished article and he has plenty to work on, in training.
“This year, on more than one occasion I got to touch the podium in sprint finishes; but insecurity and little specific training on sprints perhaps cost me the chance of a good result. I will have to work more on this.”
One concern for most riders, especially those in the squad, is the 3 positive tests in just over a year. I wondered if Luca was concerned that his good name might be questioned.
“I think it proper to wait for the outcome of the appeal and then maybe ask for an explanation from the person concerned. As for my reputation, my fortune is based on my past performances and trust that we will make it better in 2015.”
Riding for a team that believes in him should help Luca break new ground in 2015. His fast sprint will be valuable in the many races that finish in a reduced sprint. It should be very interesting to see him combine with Mauro Finetto, it could be a very strong partnership. I’ll leave the last words with Luca.
“In 2015 I would like a little more luck, fewer crashes and maybe some reward me for two unlucky years and the many sacrifices made.”
Follow us in facebook https://www.facebook.com/CiclismoInternacionalLatinoamerica?fref=ts … or Twitter @CiclismoInter
Copyright © 2014 Ciclismo Internacional. All Rights Reserved