By Gregor Brown
Daniele Bennati is confident in his abilities to bring home the wins for Liquigas in 2009. The Italian sprinter from Arezzo will have more attention from Team Liquigas after the departure of Filippo Pozzato to Team Katusha.
"This year, for the races I was in, Pozzato was hardly there, and so the pressure will be the same. ... It is normal there is pressure on someone who starts as the leader," said Bennati to Cyclingnews.
Bennati ended his season with a win in the Giro del Piemonte. It marked win number seven in a year that was up and down for him. He took four stage wins at the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, but an inflammation of the Achilles tendon forced him to miss the Tour de France.
The Vuelta was one of the few times Pozzato and Bennati raced together. The duo helped Liquigas win the opening team time trial and went on to vie for stage wins. Though Bennati is the fastest sprinter of the two, Pozzato would sometimes have a go of his own in finishes that suited him.
"His non-presence allows me to be calmer, but, certainly, it was, well, how it was last year. This year  the team will be at my calling for the races that are adapted to my characteristics, above all for the sprints."
Bennati will start his season in Spain with the Volta a Mallorca and Volta a Valencia. He will return to Italy and build up to the Milano-Sanremo with the Monte Paschi Eroica and Tirreno-Adriatico. He will race Belgium's Driedaagse De Panne, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem in April and ride both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.
"It would be good to confirm what I did this year in the Giro d'Italia." He won three stage wins and the sprinter's maglia ciclamino in the 2008 edition.
The team has Ivan Basso for the Giro's overall classification. Bennati will have at least two men dedicated to his lead-out that can in turn help Basso when needed.