Footon-Servetto has emphasised youth in their line-up for the Tour de France, with no fewer than eight Grand Boucle debutants set to roll down the start ramp in Rotterdam next week. They are Alberto Benitez, Arkaitz Duran, Iban Mayoz, Rafael Valls, Markus Eibegger, Manuel Cardoso, Fabio Felline and Eros Capecchi. The team captain is Italian Giampaolo Cheula, who finished the 2007 and 2008 Tours for Barloworld.
Directeur Sportif Joxean Fernández Matxin is fully aware of his squad’s inexperience, but believes that his charges will compensate for this “with the enthusiasm of doing a race that for many of them is a dream come true”. Matxin sees Capecchi, Duran and Eibegger capable of making an impact in the mountains and hopes that his fast man Cardoso will come to the fore in the race’s first week. In any case, his ambitions are clear. “We want to win at least one stage, for this we need to pay attention to the escapes and be combative”.
The average age of the nine man line-up is just 25.5 years, and the squad includes this Tour’s youngest rider, Fabio Felline. Born in 1990, the Italian neo-pro impressed in winning the Circuit de Lorraine but now faces an early introduction to a rather more daunting French stage race.
The youthful nature of the Footon-Servetto squad will serve to distance it somewhat from its previous incarnation as Saunier-Duval. Writing in the official Tour programme, however, Bernard Hinault was less than enthusiastic in his appraisal of their presence. “I’m not even going to say that I’m happy to see [general manager Mauro] Gianetti’s team at the Tour. The last time he came, with Riccò as leader, he left us in a real mess”.
It will be up to the Footon-Servetto youngsters to offer a rather different interpretation of the sport this time around.