By Gregor Brown
After only two months away from the sport, Italy's Paolo Bettini appears to be back. The two-time world champion met with Mauro Gianetti and Joxean Fernández Matxin Saturday in Chiasso, Switzerland, to discuss ownership of the Fuji-Servetto team, formerly Team Saunier Duval.
"We are talking with Bettini regarding a partnership. We are looking at it now; how his partnership will be with us. We are discussing a role for Bettini and maybe it could be a role in the society," said Gianetti to Cyclingnews Sunday.
Gianetti is the owner of GM Bikes, the managing company of Saunier Duval-Scott, which became Scott-American Beef in 2008. The team's next incarnation will be as Team Fuji-Servetto, in 2009. The team's ProTour licence, which was renewed for one more year last week, permits Gianetti to enter cycling's premier calendar races.
The exact extent of Bettini's influence over GM Bikes' operations is unknown; Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport suggested Bettini will buy Gianetti and Matxin out of their shares and become complete owner. There's merit to this argument, as race organisers may link the current management team to doping cases surrounding their former riders Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli at this year's Tour de France. This could cause problems next season.
Gianetti refused to give more details until another meeting with Bettini. "My role? I want to do what I know how to do, like in the races," said Bettini. He explained that an alliance between teams could be possible. "It is better to have fewer teams but good ones."
A partnership could be forged between Palmiro Masciarelli's Acqua & Sapone continental team and the ProTour outfit. The experienced Italian would act as team manager and bring team riders and close friends of Bettini, Stefano Garzelli and Luca Paolini, across to the squad.