By Gregor Brown
Barloworld targets two Italian dates this week with the Giro del Friuli tomorrow and the Eroica on Saturday, March 7. Team Manager Claudio Corti leads a separate team in South Africa's Giro del Capo, but insists the Italian races are top priorities.
"The team is in good condition. Friuli might end in a sprint and I am curious to see how our neo-professional, Michele Merlo, goes," said Corti to Cyclingnews.
Directeur Sportif Alberto Volpi will lead the team at the Giro del Friuli, a 184.2-kilometre race. The team will field Francesco Bellotti, Giampaolo Cheula, Diego Caccia, Patrick Calcagni, Marco Corti, Paolo Longo Borghini, Michele Merlo and Carlo Scognamiglio.
Scognamiglio showed great form in Saturday's GP Insubria. The Italian from Bergamo finished fifth behind winner Francesco Ginanni.
Valerio Tebaldi will direct the riders at the Montepaschi Strade Bianche - Eroica Toscana. The race takes in the famed white gravel roads near Siena before it finishes in the city's Piazza del Campo.
"Eroica is particular, like Paris-Roubaix. Paolo Longo Borghini and Geraint Thomas can do very well there. Thomas is less focused on the track this year and should be strong in these types of races."
The team placed four riders in the top 15 in last year's Eroica. This year, the team will field Caccia, Giampaolo Cheula, Marco Corti, Longo Borghini, Scognamiglio, Merlo, Patrick Calcagni and Thomas.
Swiss Calcagni finished sixth in 2008. Briton Thomas has experience with the rough road thanks to his win in the junior edition of the 2004 Paris-Roubaix.