Acqua & Sapone to merge with Fuji-Servetto?

The possible presence of Italian Paolo Bettini as manager in Team Fuji-Servetto opens the door for a...

The possible presence of Italian Paolo Bettini as manager in Team Fuji-Servetto opens the door for a merger with Team Acqua & Sapone. The Italian Professional Continental team of Palmiro Masciarelli could offer an important boost in riders for the Spain-registered ProTour team.

"With him [Bettini] I would make an agreement right away, also because the time to do such things right is narrowing," said Masciarelli to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Two-time World Champion and recently retired cyclist Bettini met with Mauro Gianetti, owner of Team Fuji, on Saturday to discuss becoming part of the team formerly known as Team Saunier Duval. The scope of Bettini's role is not clear, but it could involve a complete buy out of the team's managing company, GM Bikes.

Two positive controls at the 2008 Tour de France with then team members, Leonardo Piepoli and Riccardo Riccò, hit the team hard. Gianetti formed Team Fuji late in the year after the loss of sponsors and key riders from the old Saunier Duval team. Though he has a renewed ProTour licence for 2009, he lacks riders to challenge for victory in the top-level races, which brought about a proposition to Masciarelli around three weeks ago.

"I responded to him [Gianetti] that I understand and I am very sorry for the situation in which he finds himself, but I won't make an agreement with him. For now his image is tarnished. With Bettini the situation is different," said Masciarelli.

Acqua & Sapone has a number of quality riders, including close friends of Bettini, Stefano Garzelli and Luca Paolini. An agreement between Bettini and Gianetti is expected this week.

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