By Gregor Brown
Stefano Garzelli will make his debut in Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo colours on Wednesday in the Tour Méditerranéen. The 2000 Giro d'Italia winner joins the Italian Pro Continental outfit after spending two years at Liquigas where he took two consecutive victories in the Italian 1.HC Tre Valli Varesine race. "From here starts my preparations for the 2007 Giro d'Italia," said the rider from Varese. "There is still a lot of work to be done as I go towards the Giro, but the sensations are good."
The team will be lead by director sportifs Franco Gini and Bruno Cenghialta at the February 14-18 race. The complete eight-man team will consist of Garzelli, Dario Andriotto, Alexandr Arekeev, Gabriele Balducci, Massimo Codol, Andrei Kunitski, Giuseppe Muraglia and Aurélien Passeron. Frank Vandenbroucke, who won the event in 1996, will sit out the race due to problems with his left knee.
Aurélien Passeron is pointing towards the queen-stage Mont Faron. "I hope that I take it well," explained the young Frenchman. "I will be racing on home roads, I want to make a good impression and be amongst the protagonists."
Tuscan Gabriele Balducci, now in his third season with the outfit, will focus on the sprints. "In Donoratico I demonstrated that the condition is there. The team has given me the trust," noted the 31 year-old. "I hope to repay them with a win, hopefully at the Méditerranéen."
The Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo outfit is among the eight wild card teams selected for participation in the Giro d'Italia. Giro organiser RCS Sport will decide on Friday, February 16 which four of the eight selected outfits will by offered a start in the race.