After joining Lidl-Trek following a breakthrough season, Jonathan Milan kickstarts his 2024 season with the American squad at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana on Wednesday.
Lidl-Trek also announced the addition of Eritrean Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, who renewed with the team as a climbing domestique, as their 29th and final member for 2024.
Milan heads to Spain for a different season opener to his three years at Bahrain Victorious where he started in the Middle East at either the Saudi or UAE Tour, all with an eye on greater involvement in the Classics alongside Mads Pedersen.
“I feel great motivation and confidence. It’s the first race of a new adventure and project, I’m super excited about it. My condition is not at the top, but as I mentioned, it was a very specific choice,” said Milan in a press release.
“My and the Team’s ambition is to reach the first peak condition for the Classics. Volta Valenciana will tell me where I am at, where I need to improve and which aspects I need to focus on in the coming weeks.”
Milan is down to ride Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Milan San Remo, Gent Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix before he goes back to the Giro d’Italia after winning a stage and the maglia ciclamino on debut there in 2023.
He will have experience on his side with Pedersen and former Milan-San Remo winner Jasper Stuyven already part of a solid Lidl-Trek Classics squad.
The 23-year-old hit the ground running in 2023 with a powerful sprint win at the Saudi Tour ahead of Dylan Groenewegen but is more focused on arriving at the Classics at that level after a disappointing campaign last year that was ruined by crashes and DNFs.
“I have to say it is what I would like to change in 2024 – in 2023 I was in good shape maybe too early in the beginning of the year because I was feeling really good in Saudi,” Milan told Cyclingnews at the team’s December training camp.
“I mean, I won a stage there and I’m happy about that, but my goal was the Classics… and it was not that good there.”
Milan’s results from last spring saw him well off the pace during opening weekend, Milan-San Remo and Brugge de Panne, alongside DNFs at all of Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and Gent-Wevelgem.
He was able to laugh off how he “crashed three times on this knee in less than 10 days” with recurring pain stifling any chance of a good result before he recovered for the Giro and reached great success there on only the second day.
Milan’s qualities seem suited to much of the Classics as a bigger sprinter coming from a track background on the same team pursuit squad as Filippo Ganna who won gold in Tokyo 2020.
With his national teammate finding his best Classics form last year finishing second in San Remo and sixth at Roubaix, Lidl-Trek clearly see a great possibility for Milan to develop similarly to Ganna in the coming years.
Another man from that track quartet, Simone Consonni, has left Cofidis and joined Milan at Lidl-Trek with the pair set to link up and build their trust as a leadout with another fast man, Edward Theuns, also part of Milan’s trains and on the start list at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
“The sprint is a mechanism that cannot be built with a snap of the fingers. It takes time, especially for riders who have never raced together on the road,” said Milan.
“We have to refine the mechanisms and it is only by racing that we can become as one. We have the potential to build a great train. I am optimistic about doing well right from the start.”
Post-Classics, Milan will again prepare for the Giro where he will lead Lidl-Trek in the sprints alongside fellow Italians Giulio Ciccone for GC and Andrea Bagioli for stages and climbing support. Following his second Grand Tour appearance, he’ll turn his focus to the track and attempting to retain the Olympic team pursuit title in Paris with Ganna and co.
“It doesn’t seem like it, but it’s [the Olympics] very close now. We didn’t do badly at the European Championships,” said Milan to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Now we’ll see what my teammates will do in the World Cup in Australia. I remain optimistic about our quartet at the Games. After Tokyo, we are the reference and we will try to do our best in Paris too.”