By Gregor Brown in Marina di Bibbona
Barloworld is putting the final touches on its 2008 season preparations in Marina di Bibbona (Toscana), Italy. The Professional Continental team arrived on Friday, January 18, and on Monday enjoyed a 'rest day' before the training intensity increases. Team Manager Claudio Corti and the directeur sportifs attended to business as the riders went on a short ride and then relaxed at the seaside hotel.
Francesco Bellotti transferred to the team after three years with Crédit Agricole. The Italian from Verona was with the team in 2004 and noted the differences since Corti has taken over from the then mostly South African team.
"The team is much more respected now," he noted while him and some team-mates rode to a local bar for a coffee. "I hated ending it with Crédit but the new possibilities here are exciting." Like most of the other cyclists here at the camp, including Tour de France stage winner Robert Hunter, he pointed to the family-like environment that comes from a small level team like Corti has assembled.
Diego Caccia turned professional with the team in 2007, and he is impressed with how the team has evolved for 2008. "We now have additional guys like [Enrico] Gasparotto and [Baden] Cooke," he stated as nodding towards the 25 year-old former Italian Champion, Gasparotto, who later bought the entire training group coffees.
Caccia came close to riding the Tour de France last year as a neo-professional, but a training crash meant he watched the race from home in Bergamo, Italy. The team is likely to get wildcard invitations to the Tour and the Giro d'Italia for 2008. "I think my chances are good I will ride my first Grand Tour this year," he continued. "I really don't mind which one."
Over the winter, Gasparotto switched teams for the very first time since turning professional in 2005. After serving three years in the acid-green colours of Liquigas, he decided it was a time for a change. He talked to Corti and in November decided to sign a one-year contract.
"Liquigas is a large team with a lot of big-named riders, but Corti has a good group with 20 riders. There are the big-named riders, even without being a ProTour team. We have Cooke, Hunter and [Mauricio] Soler, and really, we don't lack anything. In fact, it is more of a small family atmosphere."