Canberra's Calabria claims Team Novo Nordisk ready for Milan-San Remo and more
Team Novo Nordisk's returning road captain Fabio Calabria says squad is all set for third WorldTour race of the season...
After three years away, Australian cyclist Fabio Calabria is back where his career all began. The 29-year-old Canberra native spent five seasons with Team Novo Nordisk predecessor Team Type 1 before racing for the current team during its inaugural season as a UCI Professional Continental squad in 2013.
Now on the eve of the first Monument of the season, Milan San-Remo, the former Champion System-Stan’s No Tubes rider (2015) finds himself once again racing for the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team.
“This team has really grown a lot from the early years when we were racing predominantly domestic races in the US,” recalled Calabria in a phone interview with Eurosport on Friday. “In the beginning it was a bit of a struggle to gain respect as the other teams didn’t always take us seriously, and now we are literally racing the biggest races in the world.
“We’ve shown that whenever we turn up for a race, we are there to race,” he continued. “We are not just there to make up numbers. We will rub elbows with the best and look to animate every race we enter. People notice that and it definitely helps in terms of respect.”
While Calabria did not specifically envisage racing in the 108th edition of Milan-San Remo, he did have confidence from the very start in the lofty vision of team founder Phil Southerland and the dogged commitment of the team to continue their push toward the pinnacle of the sport – a potential wildcard invite to the Tour de France in 2021 – which also coincides with the 100th anniversary of the life-saving discovery of insulin.
“This team has continually evolved over the years and has avoided taking backward steps, which is thanks in large part to the work of management and the riders,” Calabria claimed. “That dedication and work ethic is the reason we are here racing Milan-San Remo this weekend.
“Looking back at my first year in 2008 seems like a long time ago now, and although I wasn’t thinking about the Spring Classics, I definitely had faith in the program that big things would eventually happen,” he continued. “Everyone has done a really good job of keeping the ball rolling and all that hard work is really starting to pay off.”
Australian Fabio Calabria (Team Novo Nordisk) mixing it up on a break in the third stage of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour in February. Photo: Tim De Waele Eurosport
With the team battle-hardened by a solid start to the season, which includes two WorldTour races already in the books – Abu Dhabi and Tirreno-Adriatico – Novo Nordisk is set for its third consecutive start in Milan.
Calabria, who is making his MSR debut, says the team is ready for the gruelling 291-kilometre race ahead and that the eight-man squad is eager to “have a crack” in either a breakaway or a bunch sprint despite having lost team sprinter and two-time MSR veteran Andrea Peron (ITA) due to residual effects from a previous crash.
“We lost Andrea Peron, who was originally scheduled to start, but he has pulled out due to some health issues, however we’ve got Javier Megias (ESP) and he’s always fast in the finish, especially in a race like this,” explained Calabria.
"We have a strong team here, and any one of us that get in that move will make for a happy scenario. For the others in the bunch, it’s about conserving energy and getting through the day and being ready for the fight over the last few climbs to the finish, which I expect to be a bunch sprint considering the level of talent on hand."
Team general manager Vassili Davidenko remains hopeful in lieu of the recent roster shakeup.
“Due to a few unexpected illnesses and crashes, we had some last minute roster changes,” Davidenko said. “A few of riders only found out yesterday that they are racing Milan-San Remo. They were so excited and thrilled when they received that call and that enthusiasm is contagious.
“We’ve done everything we can to show up and make this our best Milan-San Remo to date and that means both short-term and long-term planning,” he added. “Already this season, we’ve raced two World Tour stage races and I believe that experience will benefit us.”
Davidenko is also optimistic about Calabria’s progression in the lead-up to the race.
“The riders who were at Tirreno-Adriatico raced well, got into several breakaways and were aggressive all throughout the race,” he said. “Now, they’ve had a few days to really focus on recovery. More specifically, Fabio has shown some progress and in the past five months his form has really developed.
“Tomorrow is a major race and a step up for him, and we hope he’ll be in the breakaway.”
For Calabria, who was initially diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 13 after spending three harrowing days in a coma, MSR is just another battle both he and his team are ready to fight.
“Ultimately the goal of the team is to show that anything is possible,” he said. “We are definitely at that point in having a crack in WorldTour races and it’s pretty special to be able to do that.”