Stealth American

Guido TrentiTwo weeks ago a solitary American professional made the winning split at the Madrid-hosted World Championships, yet that result raised nary an eyebrow, remaining largely a post-script buried in deep in journalists’ accounts(oh yeah, by the way…Guido Trenti finished 23rd). Maybe it’s because he only finished 23rd, maybe it’s because he speaks Italian and the American press were unable to talk to him conveniently, maybe it’s because many question whether he is actually “American” (despite the wholly legitimate dual Italian-American citizenship due to his American mother), or maybe it’s because he was assisting the victor, Tom Boonen, and merely coasted in as a keenly curious spectator. Even USA Cycling itself, the governing body who issues his racing license, seems a bit perplexed about Trenti, listing the results of a 2001 Cat 4 race as his sole American palmares.

Trenti’s role in the American camp at the worlds seemed rather low key to the point of wondering if he was even there. For approximately one week after the event, the only photograpic evidence that Trenti actually was a part of the American team was this photo taken by team mechanic Chris Davidson. Trenti’s bike is second from the left, #51. Slowly a few more images made their way into circulation, but it just struck me as odd that all of the other American participants had at least one picture posted within 24 hours (if not sooner) of the event’s conclusion. Only Saul Raisin shed some light on the story, posting a pre-race photo of Trenti and confirming that Trenti and Fred Rodriguez were protected riders for the final 2 laps.

If you looked at the results with trade teams after the rider’s names, rather than nationalities, then Trenti’s position looks suspiciously like that of the final leadout rider rolling across the line after dropping off his captain about 250 meters out. After all, Trenti is Boonen’s final leadout rider and Trenti was an integral part of numerous Boonen victories in 2005: from the sands of Qatar, to Paris-Nice, to the E3-prijs Harelbeke, to the Tour of Belgium, to the Tour de France, and ultimately, possibly Boonen’s final race (and victory) of 2005- the world championships. Of the three pre-race favorites on a course deemed sprinter-friendly, only Petacchi had the luxury of having his favored leadout man (Marco Velo) being of similar Italian nationality. Boonen’s favored leadout man was not a Belgian, but an American, and Robbie McEwen actually faced a similar dilemma with Fred Rodriguez. Of course, strange things happen in world championship road races and rather odd and potentially unknown allegiances may rear their head. For instance, I don’t think I ever realized the Phil Anderson/Greg LeMond alliance which took place during the 1983 world championship road race. John Wilcockson weaves quite a captivating narrative involving this Aussie/American pact. This quote by Boonen the day after his victory certainly raised my eyebrows:

“So Bettini attacked on that last climb, Nuyens and Leukemans anticipated that perfectly. The last three kilometres Nick and Bjorn took gas back and I asked Peter to give it full blast. Before the last turn I was comfortable, saw that everything was okay. My QuickStep team mate Guido Trenti was able to come underneath still, but I didn’t need his ‘help’ anymore. I nestled myself in Alejandro Valverde’s wheel, he started sprinting with 300 metres to go. Hundred metres before the finish line I picked my moment.”

While perusing Pez Cycling News, I eventually discovered this photo which shows Boonen front and center and Trenti on the far right, a bit blurry. When coupled with the Boonen quote, Trenti appears to be rolling in on the tops, a bit in the periphery, trying to catch a glance of who emerges victorious between Boonen and Valverde. Two of Boonen’s Belgian teammates, Nick Nuyens (white helmet) and Bj√∂rn Leukemans (red helmet), are also visible (and blurry) in the far background, hoping to see Boonen raise his arms in victory. Just this weekend I caught the cycling.tv video coverage of the race and repeated viewing proved inconclusive. Boonen and Trenti were lost in the scrum about 600 meters out before Boonen emerges on Valverde’s wheel. About the same time of Boonen’s appearance more towards the center/left marks Trenti’s appearance on the right side of the group. Maybe quick words were exchanged between Boonen and Trenti along the lines of Boonen’s quote (”Guido, don’t worry, I’ve got it myself”) leaving Trenti with nothing to do but sit back and spectate.

If Trenti actually appeared to give it full gas on the drops all the way to the line I don’t think I’d ever question his motives, but sitting up certainly got my attention. Perhaps this is nothing more than the stark realities of the consummate professional. I’m sure Trenti knew who was in his group and surely ruled out a chance of defeating Boonen and Valverde. The bronze would still be up for grabs, but maybe Trenti was fried from the effort to make the split and realized a podium spot was out of the question. Who am I to venture how 273 very fast kilometers feels on a hot day. Peter Van Petegem sure looks spent. I was struck by John Lieswyn’s observations of his own efforts and how he sat up and lost more than 5 minutes in the closing 10 kilometers. Lieswyn knew he was cooked so why kill himself to finish maybe 45th. Just shut down the engines and roll on in (…”my days as a pro are over”…). Trenti likely wagered the odds of bronze were slim, that his contract is firm for some time with Quick-Step, and that his duty as the ace lead out man in Boonen’s posse is secure. He already proved to his American peers that he was the best American on the day and he proved to Boonen that under similar circumstances the other 364 days of the year he could be in there for the kill with his boss Mr. Boonen to deliver an armchair ride to victory. Mission accomplished for employment purposes, but regarding national pride I’m still a bit curious about his passion.

Comments (3) to “Stealth American”

  1. […] 8th in 2004? Heck, the best I can think of are Guido Trenti’s leadouts that put not one, but two non-Americans in the rainbow […]

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