Italy's 20 year-old Jakub Mareczko will have a chance to sprint against cycling's elite, like Mark Cavendish, in the Tour de San Luis in Argentina (January 19-25) after starting his professional career with two wins in Venezuela.
"We are going to try to set up the sprints for Mareczko," Team Italy's national director, Davide Cassani told Cycling Weekly.
"He's young and we still have to see what he can do, but he's already won twice in his first race. That's important.
"He's going to be up against bigger rivals, so it'll be good to see how this new sprinter goes in his first true race with big pros."
'Kuba' Mareczko came with his mother from Poland to Brescia, Italy, when he was five years old. Cassani took note of him in 2014 when he raced, and won, near his home in Faenza at the Circuito del Porto-Trofeo Arvedi.
Mareczko signed a two-year contract for 2015 and 2016 with Italy's Southeast team, but received permission to race on Cassani's national team in Argentina's Tour de San Luis, January 19 to 25.
The time will be well spent if Mareczko wishes to lead Italy's national team in the world championships in the coming years. Cassani explained that he is fast, but needs to improve if he wants to reach the finish lines.
"He's a pure sprinter, a little like Andrea Guardini, he has a big kick in the last 500 metres, but has trouble on the climbs. He needs to get use to the pro races," Cassani said.
"He was in the amateur ranks for only two years and turned pro right away, so he's going to need time on the roads not to be a climber, but to be able to pass certain climbs for the sprint.
"Cavendish had problems when he first became pro, too. He was the first to be dropped, but then he matured, won Milan-San Remo and everything else.
"We need to leave Mareczko time to grow, but he's started on the right foot even if the wins came in Venezuela. I don't expect wins in Argentina from him, but I'm curious to see if he be competitive in some of the stages."
Mareczko won stages three and four of the Vuelta al Tachira en Bicicleta on Sunday and Monday against mostly local riders. In Argentina, he will have to sprint against Cavendish, Sacha Modolo and Oscar Gatto. Once back in Italy, he will continue to train under Michele Bartoli and team with Southeast's new rider, Alessandro Petacchi.
Petacchi signed for Southeast after sprinting to 22 Giro d'Italia wins, wining the Tour de France's green jersey and helping Cavendish in team Omega Pharma. The 41-year-old will lead the team in some races, possibly the Giro, and help Mareczko.
"Southeast is the right team, they have a good calendar and won't put much pressure on Mareczko. He will have space to grow and lead in races," Cassani added.
"Petacchi will be able to give him good advice and pilot him in certain. It's a big deal to have Petacchi at your side."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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