Danilo Di Luca is in talks with Acqua & Sapone with a view to signing for the team ahead of next season. The 35-year-old Italian failed to make a significant impact with Katusha in 2011 after returning from suspension for CERA use.
The Acqua & Sapone squad is based in Di Luca’s home region of Abruzzo and team manager Palmiro Masciarelli explained that there was considerable expectation from local fans that the two parties could come to an agreement. Di Luca began his career with Cantina Tollo, a forerunner to the current Acqua&Sapone set-up.
“I can’t deny that we’ve had a lot of pressure from Abruzzese fans to seal these negotiations with Danilo,” Acqua & Sapone manager Palmiro Masciarelli told Cicloweb.it.
After his non-descript 2011 campaign, Masciarelli is hopeful that Di Luca can rediscover something approaching his form of old next season. Ahead of this season’s Giro d’Italia, Di Luca stated that he was at "80 percent" of his capabilities of 2009, the year of his positive test for CERA.
“There are various situations to be put together, and there’s also the fact that he needs to find himself, and that he needs to make a leap in quality with us in respect to 2011,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re weighing up various options, with sponsors, organisers and teammates, given that Danilo’s arrival would change some of the balance of the team.”
Di Luca’s father-in-law Stefano Giuliani, currently a directeur sportif with Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli, is set to work at Acqua & Sapone next year, and Masciarelli said that his arrival was not contingent on Di Luca joining the team.
“Giuliani can be very useful as a directeur sportif, and I say that independently of the fact that he could secure the arrival of his son-in-law,” he said.
“[Ginanni] is a rider who has won a lot and was on the market, I think he can do well,” Masciarelli said. “[Reda] was left out following the merger between Quick Step and Omega Pharma, and I’ve known him for some time. He’s a good lad and a very good rider.”
Masciarelli also confirmed that Colombian talent Carlos Alberto Betancur will remain at the team next season, in spite of sustained interest from Liquigas-Cannondale. Winner of the GiroBio in 2010, Betancur took an impressive victory at the Giro dell’Emilia in October.