New squad unveiled in Los Angeles
The choice of location for the show – the Paramount lot in West Hollywood – was clearly no accident with the sometimes lavish, always tongue-in-cheek evening backed up Cannondale General Manager Bob Burbank’s insistence that the emphasis of the team was to have fun.
While the majority of the squad were away preparing for races, this being Hollywood the big name talent was all on hand to showcase the new-look squad.
Peter Sagan, Moreno Moser and Elia Viviani are the fabric of the culture that Burbank is trying to instil on the squad – one of youthful promise and exuberance.
At 35, Ivan Basso, also in attendance, falls at the other end of the spectrum, but one can only he hope he can use his experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – to guide his young team-mates.
Cannondale’s three-year deal as sponsor of the team sees them replace Liquigas, who ended their 14-year association with professional cycling last season.
The American company inherit a squad largely made up of Italians and while that might not always necessarily be the case further down the line, they’re not going to skew American just because of its roots in the US.
“I think it’s less about what country a rider is from and more about how their DNA fits into our culture,” Burbank told Cyclingnews. “I believe we have an opportunity together to help change cycling. It needs youth and a change in direction and these guys bring that.”
In true Hollywood fashion, the team, which included home favourite Ted King, Damiano Caruso and neo-pro Guillame Boiwin, entered the fray from a hummer limo, making their way to the auditorium via a black carpet.
The biggest cheers were typically saved for Sagan, who posed and preened his way down the carpet in a manner suggesting he’s revelling in his status as the team’s star attraction.
And whether Basso likes it or not, Sagan is now the star. Once the riders had all ridden to the stage, the Slovakian was the last rider to be called by MC (former American pro turned pundit Bob Roll, incidentally) to speak and he clearly had the biggest budget when it came to introductory highlights.
Basso, the elder statesman of the team by a stretch, credited Sagan – and Moser, Viviani and Caruso for that matter – for helping him feel young again.
When asked whether he felt Sagan had it in him to win the Tour de France, Basso said he could do anything he wanted. “I’ve never seen a rider like him – he’s an absolute animal”, he enthused.
Sagan himself says he’s again got his eyes on the Tour but has other targets before then, chiefly Milan-San Remo and then, more importantly, the Tour of Flanders.
Seeing first hand just how at ease he seems with his status, you wouldn’t want to bet against him winning either.