Another Italian on the team worth keeping an eye on is 19-year-old Letizia Paternoster. Despite her young age, she’s been racing bikes for over a decade and has claimed multiple wins at the Junior and Elite level. She took the first stage of the Women’s Tour Down Under in January and we can’t wait to see what the 2019 racing season holds for her. Despite her jam-packed training schedule, she found time to talk to We Love Cycling about why she decided to make the switch to Trek-Segafredo, how she avoids burn-out, and what are her hopes for the future of professional women’s cycling.
How did you start cycling and when did you know that you wanted to do it professionally?
I first raced a bike at 5-years-old but by that point, I have already been stressing my parents out for two years because, at age 3, I started saying that I wanted to be a pro cyclist. I was inspired by Maurizio Fondriest who hails from the same town I’m from in Italy. When, as a junior, I started winning my first international races, I realized that I might just be able to make my dreams a reality.
You’ve won titles in numerous disciplines, which is your favourite and why?
Honestly, I love every facet of cycling. I have competed in pretty much all disciplines but track has always held something special for me. I’ve made some truly amazing memories racing track and it is there that I hope to make my first Olympic appearance next year in Tokyo.
We wish you the best of luck! How does it feel to be part of a brand-new team featuring so much talent? When did you decide to make the switch from Astana?
It’s awesome. Trek-Segafredo is different from everything else I had seen so far in women’s cycling and I think it’s really something big for the whole movement. It gives a positive boost towards bridging the gap between men’s and women’s cycling. Here, we feel like a whole team and both lineups are looked after in every aspect and with the greatest professionalism. Last summer, I carefully weighed all my opportunities, including that of Astana, to which I am grateful for taking me up to Elite cycling and giving me the opportunity to take my first elite road wins. But ultimately, I opted to be part of this exciting project.
Are you excited to be riding for a team directed by two women? Do you think this will become more common in the sport?
It is big and even more so when the two ladies are the likes of Ina and Giorgia. They were huge champions in our sport, so they have all the knowledge and the experience in the world to lead us into this specific branch of cycling. As riders, they also had similar characteristics to mine, so this makes their contribution even more valuable to me. And yes, I believe that while women’s cycling keeps moving towards increased professionalization, more ladies from the pro peloton will eventually slot into technical roles in World Tour teams, which is great.
What is your weekly routine like?
It often changes and because I am committed to both road and track cycling, sometimes it’s really hard to find time for myself, my life and my family. I get out to train once or twice a day. I always do gym workout in the morning, and then go out riding in the afternoon. I also take part in track training camps with the National Team quite often. When I’m in a training camp, we do some light workout in the early morning, then two sessions on track before and after lunch, followed by massages before dinner.
That’s a lot to manage. What do you do to take care of yourself and ensure you don’t get burnt out?
It’s a challenge, but I am really assisted by my coach who helps plan my training and schedule based on how I’m feeling that week. I think that as you grow up, you learn to know yourself and your own ‘engine.’ I’m learning to pay attention and know when it’s time to loosen up a bit in order to avoid burning out.
What is something you think people would be surprised to know about life as a professional cyclist?
I think from the outside, it’s sometimes hard to understand how many things move around a professional athlete and how much this impacts our personal lives, even when we aren’t racing. On the other hand, I am lucky enough to have a staff of people who are constantly on my side, helping me with time management and seeing to all the different responsibilities.
Going into the 2019 racing season, what do you think are the biggest issues we should be talking about in professional women’s cycling?
Women’s Cycling is growing, but as of today, Trek-Segafredo is still something unique in terms of structure and internal organization, there’s a lot of room for improvement. And then, we all know very well that the gap in remuneration between us and our male colleagues is quite extensive. You can have all the talent in the world, but you can’t dedicate yourself completely to the sport and make sacrifices when you earn 500€ a month or even less. I know several girls who are in this exact situation. Hopefully, the upcoming Women’s WorldTour can be the decisive step to actually bringing our sport to a legitimately professional level, and help the riders get appropriate guarantees and contracts.
We hope so too. Finally, who is your biggest cycling role model and your best cycling mate?
My model of inspiration… well, everybody loves Peter Sagan! Apart from the sensational rider he is, I also like his skills and attitude. He manages to always be himself and that’s big. In the peloton, I really get along with Martina Alzini, a rider whom I share a lot with. Of course, there are also many important people in my life outside the world of cycling and I couldn’t do this without them either.