Daniele Bennati's first meeting with his new Movistar teammates was less than ideal with the Italian unable to leave his bed on day one of the team camp in Pamplona. The 36-year-old has ridden for several teams since turning professional with the Acqua & Sapone outfit in 2002 and explained he is delighted with the timing that allows him to finally link up with the Spanish team and its manager Eusebio Unzué.
"I had always wanted to ride for this team at some point, and always kept a very good relationship with Eusebio, yet, by many reasons -being under contract with other squads; some different preferences from either myself or Eusebio during my career-, there wasn't a real chance to make it real until today," Bennati said in a release from Movistar. "We both knew that the team I was part of was folding after 2016 and my contract was expiring so, ever since the late part of 2015, we keep talking to each other so I could make it into the team. I'm so happy to be part of this family, and I want to make sure that all my experience can be passed on to my team-mates and make the group stronger."
A quality lead out man and sprinter in his own right with 11 grand tour stage wins, 2016 was Bennati's most successful win wise since 2001 and he is keen to pursue his own personal opportunities early in the season before switching focus and helping Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde to grand tour success.
"These are two very different labours, but I know I can do well on them, one task at a time. Looking at my 2017 calendar, I'd like to focus on that individual role early, seeking for some space in classics like Milano-Sanremo or Paris-Roubaix, to later devote myself gladly to Alejandro and Nairo, especially into Grand Tours," he said.
While there was success in 2016 for Bennati, a fractured vertebra also limited his race days and for 2017 he is also hoping for better luck.
"Above all, what I want is not to suffer from crashes like last year's. I had to stay 50 days completely still due to my fractured vertebra in Milano-Sanremo, so my health will be the most important thing come 2017. Should that new season be fortunate physical-wise, results and teamwork will surely follow. I'll put all of my energy into that," he said.
Although compatriot Giovanni Visconti moves on from Movistar at the end of 2016, Bennati will link up with Adriano Malori as he becomes the seventh Italian to ride for the team. Another goal for Bennati next season is to help Malori through the season after a year in which he was placed into an induced coma following a high speed crash at the Tour de San Luis, and then finished his season with a broken collarbone from a crash at Milano-Torino.
We all know how much he has suffered to get back on track after the horrifying accident he experienced in January. The whole group, including myself, must remain by his side, as close as possible, to help him our in his recovery - every single member of this team and many others outside want him to get to the same level he was showing before his crash."