This fall, the 2000 Giro d'Italia winner, Stefano Garzelli, ended his two-year run with Liquigas by signing with Acqua & Sapone. It was a step-down in one sense, going from ProTour to pro continental level, but the 33 year-old from Varese will still be able to participate in the race most important to him, the Giro d'Italia.
"2007 will probably be the last occasion for me to demonstrate [I can win the Giro again] and I want to ride the best race I can," confirmed Garzelli to La Gazzetta dello Sport. He has had more one-day wins lately, with wins in the Rund um den Henninger Turm, a stage of the Tour de Luxembourg, the Tre Valli Varesine and the Trofeo Melinda, making him seem less of a grand tour rider.
"If it [the Giro] goes bad then I will consider the consequences and change my schedule," he continued. "This year was strange. I missed out on the races I was aiming for, like Pais Vasco and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but in the others, like Henninger Turm and the Tour de Luxembourg, I won without expecting it."
For 2007 it will be important that Garzelli goes strong from the start; Acqua & Sapone need to ensure its wild-card entry into the Giro d'Italia. "I will start strong," he noted. "I will begin with the Tour Méditerranéen, a race that I have never done but they tell me is very beautiful. Then I want to be competitive at Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, where usually I am amongst the top riders. To win, like it has happened in the last years, will be hard but you never know."
The 2007 Giro d'Italia offers a climbers' paradise, with only one real time trial. The parcours should suit Garzelli's quest for a second win in his home tour. "It is better than the last years. Hard, but not a massacre, like the last one. It is how it should be; the climbs will be decisive, but the final time trial will be great and the mountain time trial I like a lot."
The stage 12 route, from Scalenghe to Briançon, will be almost identical to stage 19 in 2000, when Marco Pantani helped his teammate Garzelli advance towards the overall win. "I remember, at breakfast Marco said to me, 'Go calmly because you will win this Giro.' He was more convinced of winning than I was. The stage was beautiful and it still gives me goose bumps."
Currently the Acqua & Sapone team is taking part in a training camp, set to run through December 23.