UAE Team Emirates had high hopes for their three main riders – Rui Costa, Diego Ulissi and Louis Meintjes – finishing inside the top 10. And although that would have been the dream, finishes of 14th, 30th and 48th for those three were not good enough for Saronni.
At 32, the UAE team manager is the youngest of all his peers among the other 17 UCI WorldTour teams, but he’s certainly no shrinking violet. His team is packed full of quality and promise, and he is determined to get the best out of them in their debut season and beyond.
“After the race I am disappointed, yes,” said the one-time Lampre trainee rider. “We were hoping to stay in the top 10, five with Rui and top 10 with Diego. Especially disappointed as Diego was not in the front of the race so we are not really happy about the end.
“Rui was there in the front but in the final he was not brilliant to take a placement, so we are not really happy about this. I can’t say that I’m happy.
“We have high standards and know this team is capable of better. We know something is changing from the past years, because we’ve changed the programme of Rui for the Giro d’Italia, for him to be in the best way for that, but we were thinking about better results.”
The silver lining on Sunday was how the team were performing elsewhere in Europe. Sacha Modolo claimed victory on the sixth and final stage of the Tour of Croatia, with Jan Polanc second. It was a second stage win for Modolo, who recovered from a bad crash on Stage 3.
UAE Team Emirates claimed half of the wins in Croatia, with Kristijan Durasek also claiming Stage 2 in his homeland.
With these three riders, as well as Costa, Ulissi and Simone Petilli (36th in Liege-Bastogne-Liege) all heading to the Giro, Saronni is confident of success at the famous race – where his father Giuseppe won the general classification on two occasions.
“We don’t have the big name for the overall but we want to fight for the stages,” Saronni said.
Colombian Darwin Atapuma would have been the team’s leader for the Giro, starting May 5, but fractured his wrist and suffered concussion during a fall at the Tour of the Basque Country in Spain at the beginning of the month.
“We think we can fight for the sprints and others with Rui and Jan. If you think about this we are happy and we think we will be there in the fight.
“From the start there are stages Rui can win, he has good characteristics. We also think he can fight for the pink jersey in the first few stages and also Sacha in the sprints too. We also have young guys like Polanc and Petilli for the sprints.
“Our goal is to win stages there but we had in the programme originally to go for the overall with Atapuma, but then he crashed.
“Maybe with Rui, overall is possible. He is the leader but Atapuma would have been there with the goal for the pink jersey.”
With Atapuma out, Modolo will also be elevated to a leader role at the famous Italian race. And, having underwhelmed prior to Croatia, Saronni feels Modolo’s and the team’s performance there means they are heading to the Giro in good form.
“Sacha recovered well from his injury and he’s a good leader for the Giro,” he said.
“It’s positive for him his stage wins and recovering from the crash, with Durasek also winning a stage. We were lucky his crash was nothing serious. We need him for the stages. Also Jan. It seems from the Tour of Croatia that the team for the Giro is ready.”