Tour winner Jonathan Monsalve celebrates his victory with Androni Giocattoli teammates in KL.
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Italian squad builds for Giro d'Italia
Jonathan Monsalve's victory in the recently-concluded Le Tour de Langkawi was the fifth overall victory in the race for his team, Androni Giocattoli. Gianni Savio's Professional Continental squad won the race in 2002 with Hernan Dario Munoz, 2004 with Freddy Gonzalez, 2008 with Ruslan Ivanov and 2009 through Jose Serpa.
In the 2009 edition, the team dominated the race, picking up five stage wins - four of which were through Mattia Gavazzi and the other by Jose Serpa. They also won the general classification, king of the mountains, points and team competitions.
They didn't participate in 2010 because the race was in March and team manager Savio told Cyclingnews why they didn't travel to Malaysia.
"As the Tour was in March, it coincided with our most important races: Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo. I like the Tour de Langkawi but for me it would not be right to participate with a second team. If I come to Malaysia, I want to be competitive."
The team's return to the race this year was a successful one, this time through Monsalve, a 21-year-old Venezuelan neo-pro.
"I am very happy for the victory because Monsalve is a young rider and it's his first race in professional cycling. It's a great beginning to his career," said Savio.
Team goals for 2011
Savio has highlighted two major goals this season with the Giro d'Italia being the main priority. They have enjoyed success in the past and Savio believes they have always honoured the Italian Grand Tour.
"In the past few years we have won stages. We finished fourth overall last year, we won the king of the mountains twice with Freddie Gonzalez and in 2005 we got on the podium when Jose Rujano finished third."
One of the big losses from the team for the 2011 season was Michele Scarponi, who transferred to Italian ProTeam Lampre-ISD. Scarponi won a stage and finished fourth overall at last year's Giro and was set to be one of the main challengers for the 2011 event. Due to budget issues however, the team couldn't afford to keep him.
Savio has plenty of riders at his disposal who could make their mark on the 2011 Giro however, one of which is Jose Rujano, who has returned to Savio's squad this season. The 28-year-old Venezuelan has faced a lot of problems in recent years and has been unable to replicate the promise he showed in 2005.
Rujano has changed teams five times in the last five years and, like Emanuele Sella and Michele Scarponi, Savio has given him another chance.
"I know Rujano very well. I found him in 2002 and developed him. Rujano is a talented rider but he has made many mistakes and has also had bad instructions from his past agent. I think he now understands his mistakes and for this reason he will be able to return a bigger rider because he knows it's his last opportunity," said Savio.
"I don't know if Rujano will be a champion. I don't know if he will win a Giro, but one thing I am sure of is that he will have a good opportunity to get good results."
His compatriot, Jose Serpa, is in great form and is another option for Savio when Italy's national tour kicks off on May 7. Serpa has started the year off strongly with a stage win and second overall in the Tour of San Luis and second overall in the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria.
"Serpa will also be a man for the general classification in the Giro d'Italia. We have good riders in the mountains and those two at the moment are our more likely winners," Savio said.
The second goal is the Compionato Italiano, which they won last year. That classification is based on points gained for strong performances in the Italian races throughout the season, similar to the UCI's yearly ranking system.
"Last year we were the Italian champions and it's a classification for all the important races in Italy," Savio said. "There is an agreement with the Italian cycling federation and the Giro d'Italia that the team that wins the Italian championship will be able to participate in the Giro and for that reason, we want to win again."