By Jean-François Quénet
French outfit Crédit Agricole, who is the world’s longest running professional cycling set-up since it’s the continuation of the prestigious Peugeot team from the 60's (launching Eddy Merckx’s career), 70's (the time of Bernard Thévenet) and 80's and was later called Z (with Tour de France winner Greg LeMond) and Gan (with world hour record man Chris Boardman), has always had foreign flavours, mostly English speaking, and nowadays they also have an Italian accent with Pietro Caucchioli and his right hand man Francesco Bellotti.
The latter has never won a pro race since he turned pro with Mercatone Uno in 2003, but he came second to David George from the South African national team in last year’s Tour de Langkawi. So it’s no surprise to see him leading the French contingent in the Malaysian race again this year.
Thus, the 26 year-old Italian dreams of making it just one step up to the top of the podium when he starts his second campaign in the 12th edition of the Tour de Langkawi from February 2-11, with a stronger Credit Agricole outfit that includes Hungarian national champion Laszlo Bodrogi and top sprinter Julian Dean of New Zealand.
"I have a great memory of Malaysia from last year's race because it was my best ever result as a professional. So, I had no hesitations in putting my hand up when the opportunity to race in Malaysia came by again," said Bellotti, speaking from his home in Pescantina near Verona. "Now I have the advantage of knowing the race and my only target will be to move one place ahead on general classification at the end of the event. The Tour de Langkawi has become a very important race for the whole world of cycling. It comes early in the season, but it’s crucial to begin well.
"Many times I’ve seen riders taking it easy at the beginning because of later goals but they never found the right rhythm. We have an expression in Italian: ‘Who begins well is already half way into the opera’. I like racing in the heat. In Europe, it’s impossible to find this kind of climate nowadays until May, that’s why I’m excited to go to Malaysia in February."
The Crédit Agricole line up for the Tour de Langkawi: Francesco Bellotti (Ita), Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun), William Bonnet (Fra), Anthony Charteau (Fra), Julian Dean (NZ) and Benoît Poilvet (Fra).