By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Tours, France
For the first time in two decades, Giancarlo Ferretti isn't at the Tour de France with his team, instead, the 64 year-old Italian Fassa team manager is in his office in Lugo, Italy, working the phones to find a new sponsor to come on board to the tune of a three year, €30 million deal. Although recent reports have claimed that Giancarlo Ferretti had found a new sponsor to replace Fassa Bortolo for 2006, it looks like he's having little luck in finalising the deal.
Despite Ferretti's request to his riders to wait until the end of the Tour to sign elsewhere, some riders have already began the process of seeking a new squad for 2006. Marzio Bruseghin will likely go to Lampre, while classics man Juan Antonio Flecha is reportedly talking to Rabobank, Fabian Cancellara is looking at Discovery Channel as a possible new team, while Kim Kirchen likes Liquigas-Bianchi. Ferretti's jewel in the crown, super-sprinter Ale-Jet Petacchi is also shopping, and his entourage includes Ongarato, Velo, Sacchi and Tosatto, and the spendy price for the speedster and his leadout quartet is said to be €3 million. As Erik Zabel may either retire at the end of 2005, or move elsewhere, a logical and lucrative new home for Petacchi & Co could be global telecom giant T-Mobile, who have the deepest pockets in the peloton. But old man Ferretti may just pull a rabbit out of his hat.
"It seems like there may still be a probability I'll find a sponsor, but I don't have a lot of hope right now", lamented a somewhat hangdog Ferretti in an interview with L'Equipe Sunday.