Team Profile, January 22, 2005
At a gala presentation Friday in Treviso, Italy, Fassa Bortolo presented its revamped 26 man ProTour squad for 2005, where Fassa celebrated five years of successful racing from 2000-2004 and looked forward to a successful sixth year in the pro peloton. For '05, the Silver Team is based around the speedy legs of Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, with Swiss TDF prologue winner Fabian Cancellara, Spanish classics specialist Juan Antonio Flecha and enigmatic GC man Dario Frigo as other key elements.
Team patron Paolo Fassa was clearly moved by a highlight film at the beginning of the presentation, saying "Yes, I would do it all over again! Our objective was to have a serious and successful team and we have achieved that." Fassa pointed out that like his building products company, which has doubled it's turnover in five years to €400 million, and "We wanted our team to grow like the company and it's achieved that." Fassa added that the squad was seeking a co-sponsor for 2006 to relieve the financial burden, as the Italian squad has only taken out a one year ProTour licence.
Fassa Bortolo's team manager Giancarlo Ferretti, nicknamed 'il sargente di ferro' (man of iron) for his strict team discipline then spoke of the blue and white squad he's guided for the last half-decade. "This season, we will really focus on the ProTour, because we need to obtain as many points as possible to propel our team high in the ProTour rankings. This is a key objective for us."
Speaking fondly of Alessandro Petacchi, who has renounced any ambitions of racing in the 2005 Tour de France and will race in the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España ahead of the 2005 World Road championships in Madrid on Sept. 25, Ferretti explained that, "Alessandro has been great to work with over the past few years and as before, we'll focus on him. This year, we know he can win a classic and he must!" Speaking of other Fassa riders, Ferretti said, "We were very proud of Cancellara with his Maillot Jaune last year and expect him to improve again this year, and Flecha had a good classics win in Zurich. We have a lot of good new riders and our specialty at (FB) is to take riders you've never heard of before and make them well known."
Petacchi, who set a record in 2003 by winning four or more stages in each of the three grand tours, won 21 times in 2004, including the all-time stage win record with nine stages in the 2004 Giro, but Petacchi crashed out of the Tour without securing a stage victory. The recently married Petacchi confirmed after a relaxing off season at home with his new bride Annachiara and their numerous pets, he had a Rainbow jersey in mind this year in Treviso, saying, "I saw the Worlds course (in Madrid) in December and it looks good for me so that will be another objective. It will be very hard to repeat my 2004 season and for 2005, my first objective once again is to win Milano-Sanremo, but if there is a change in the course, it won't be as good for me." (RAI-TV's Davide Cassani confirmed to Cyclingnews that, "Yes, there is talk of a new climb after the Cipressa in Milano-Sanremo this year but nothing has been set yet by RCS Sports, so we'll just have to wait and see.")
Speaking of his five years at Fassa Bortolo, Petacchi paid homage to the squad, saying, "In large part, the whole team is responsible for my 78 wins since I've been here." When asked which win was his best, Petacchi nominated his memorable victory in Stage 1 of the 2003 Giro d'Italia, where he decisively beat arch-rival World Champion Mario Cipollini and took the Maglia Rosa on his way to five more stage wins before crashing out late in the race. With an eye to conquest on Sanremo's via Roma on March 19th, Petacchi has anticipated his training with respect to last season and hopes to be ready for Milano-Sanremo. "Yes, I'm a little ahead of last year in my training," confirmed the lean, fit Petacchi who is 2-3kg lighter than last year, "But it's never easy to sprint after 290km! I hope my program works; so far it's going well."
Not yet 24, Swiss-Italian rider Fabian Cancellara had a big year in 2004 with five wins for Fassa Bortolo and is hoping to move up the ladder this season. "It was my first time at the Tour de France and I'm really happy how it went...to wear the Maillot Jaune for two days was a dream come true!" For 2005, one of Cancellara's main objectives will be Paris-Roubaix, where the likeable Cance finished fourth last year. "Oh I think I can do even better this year in Roubaix and will give it my best shot."
Juan Antonio Flecha, the man with the archer's winning salute took his first classic win last season at Zurich with a powerful sprint to beat Paolo Bettini. Flecha also won the prestigious Giro del Lazio in Rome but is looking to top this with an even bigger win in 2005. "This year, I really want to win a northern classic; like Flanders or Roubaix," explained the ambitious Flecha. "I like it here at Fassa and know I can really do my best in this situation."
After an up and down year in 2004, Fassa's GC man Dario Frigo feels he's back on the right track for 2005. "I think that after my health problems early in the year, I got better as the season progressed and was selected for the Italian team in Verona...so I think I can come back to the level of 2003 this season", said the normally taciturn Frigo. At
36 years old, many riders might think of hanging it up, but Fabio Baldato is back for his second stint at Fassa Bortolo and his third time around with Giancarlo Ferretti. "It's great to be back; I left in 2003 because they wanted more young riders in the team. But I came back because Ferretti thought I can help Petacchi in the sprints." The experienced Baldato is known for his sangfroid and can certainly help the sometimes nervous Petacchi keep focused as the finish line nears.
Another new addition to the Petacchi train is enormous Estonian Andrus Aug, who was formerly a member of Cipo's leadout train at the old Domina Vacanze, Slovenian speedster Andrej Hauptman and pocket powerhouse Paolo Bossoni, who will unquestionably provide Ale-Jet with the most powerful leadout train in the business.
Youth is served at Fassa Bortolo in 2005 with three young talents: Italians Vincenzo Nibali and Claudio Corioni and Belarusian Kanstantsin Siutsou. Big things are already being promised for the 19 year old Nibali, who was third in the 2004 U23 TT in Verona, while talented 2004 U23 World Road Champion Siutsou could have some bright moments in non-ProTour races already this season. Departing from the Silver Team's 2004 formation are Filippo Pozzato and Guido Trenti (Quick.Step), Frank Vandenbroucke (MrBookmaker), Dario Cioni (Liquigas), Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel), Tom Danielson (Discovery), Luca De Angeli (Colombia-Selle Italia) and Juan José De Los Angeles (retirement).