Davide Cassani has been appointed as the new coach of the Italian national team, pending formal ratification from the federal council of the Italian Cycling Federation, which will meet in late January.
Cassani met with FCI president Renato Di Rocco at the Tuscan home of Italy’s most storied commissario tecnico, Alfredo Martini, on Saturday to discuss the role, which was left vacant following Paolo Bettini’s departure last week. Bettini has been linked with a managerial position at the new team being established by Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso for the 2015 season.
A long-term regista, or road captain, on Martini’s Italian teams during his professional career, the 53-year-old Cassani had little hesitation in agreeing to take on the position of national team coach.
“If I’ve said ‘yes’ straightaway, it wasn’t for the money,” Cassani told Gazzetta dello Sport, adding that leading the squadra azzurra at the Worlds was simply too tempting a prospect to turn down.
“The Worlds has always been my race […] I fell in love with cycling thanks to [Vittorio] Adorni’s Worlds victory in 1968, when I was seven years old. For Gimondi’s Worlds in 1973, I refused to go to an uncle’s wedding. I stayed at my grandparents’ house and I watched the finale of the race on the edge of my seat.”
The 92-year-old Martini welcomed the appointment of his former road captain as commissario tecnico or c.t. “Cassani has the role of c.t. written all over him,” Martini said in Sesto Fiorentino. “As a rider, he was already most perceptive and resolute when it came to understanding situations. And now, he can count on a wealth of cycling experience at all levels, not only as a TV pundit, but also as an organiser, a student and a speaker.”
While Cassani’s position will focus primarily on selecting and preparing the elite men’s team for the world championships, he will eventually have wider responsibilities for coordinating the efforts of all Italian national teams and he vowed to look at the models in place in other countries.
“Up to recently, others have been looking at what we do in Italy, but now we will be the ones watching the others, from the English to the Australians, and not forgetting the French, who perhaps have the best structures of all,” Cassani said. “I want to travel, learn, be inspired and, if necessary, copy. We’re lacking the structures, but the human quality we have is high.”
In spite of his credentials, Cassani’s directeur sportif’s licence has expired and he will have to undertake an examination before sitting in the team car at the Worlds. While that is a mere formality, however, reconciling Cassani’s role as television pundit with the position of national coach is a pressing concern.
Currently RAI’s co-commentator at major races, including the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and the classics, Cassani hinted that he could switch to a punditry role in the studio. “I could change roles, from second commentator to studio analyst, and exclude the races closest to the Worlds,” he said.
Di Rocco supported the possibility of his national coach retaining his current media duties, telling Gazzetta that “it would be important for the federation to have the national coach on screen.”