The Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project has signed some of the best riders in the world for the 2011 season but has also carefully picked the staff and directeur sportifs who will work with the riders.
The team has hired many of the staff from the Saxo Bank team but specifically hired Italian Luca Guercilena from Quick Step to coach the riders.
Kim Andersen, Torsten Schmidt and Lars Michaelsen are all former riders but Guercilena is a sports scientist who worked closely with Aldo Sassi at the Mapei Centre before combining coaching with the role of directeur sportif.
Guercilena paid his way out of his contract at Quick Step to join the Luxembourg team but was determined to work with Andy Schleck.
“I had to pay a penalty to get out of my contract with Quick Step but that’s okay,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “It was nothing personal against my old team but I wanted to study and continue to learn. I still haven’t targeted grand tours as the big goal of the season. Now I’ve got to try and win the Tour de France with Andy Schleck. But it’s not only about the Tour. We’ll be competitive all season. We’ve got the first get-together in Crans Montana in Switzerland. I’m very curious and can’t wait to get started.”
Fuglsang, Bennati and Frank Schleck for the Giro
The Luxembourg team has signed Italy’s Daniele Bennati as its leading sprinter. He has suffered with injury and health problems in the last three years. However Guercilena is confident of helping him get back to his best.
“I’ll be seeing him on Wednesday for his first test of the season. The goal is to get him back to the level he was at when on the Champs Elysees at the 2007 Tour de France,” he explained.
“When we draw up his race programme, we’ve got to keep in mind that he’s had an Achilles heal problem. We hope he can have a good Milan-San Remo, then target Ghent-Wevelgem. It’s unlikely he will ride the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix but he’ll ride the Giro. His second peak of form will coincide with the Vuelta and world championships.”
Guercilena confirms that Jakob Fuglsang will be team leader for the Giro d’Italia, with Frank Schleck also likely to ride in Italy in May.
“He (Fuglsang) has got the physical ability to win the Tour one day but first he’s got to do the Giro,” Guercilena pointed out. “We’re studying the possibility that Frank Schleck rides too.”
Guercilena has worked closely with Professor Aldo Sassi ant the Mapei Centre and greatly admires his decision to work with Riccardo Riccò.
“The most important thing he taught me was about the human aspects to it all. Aldo is a sports scientist but he’s never forgotten the importance of creating a dialogue with people. His decision to train Riccò is a huge challenge but only Aldo has the charisma to pull it off.”