By Jean-François Quénet in Kuala Lumpur
Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia has always given new teams a chance to set an early season highlight. This year it is Italian outfit ISD who received an invitation to debut on the international scene between February 9 and 15. ISD follows Slipstream and Tinkoff, who made their entry to professional racing two years ago.
Luca Scinto is the directeur sportif for ISD and he has good memories of the Malaysian race. "Being the first European winner of Le Tour de Langkawi [in 1997], I also want to bring a winning team to Malaysia as a manager now," Scinto said. At the time Scinto was coming back from injury and the win at Langkawi gave him renewed confidence.
For the following five years of his career, he became one of the world's best domestiques, mostly at the service of Michele Bartoli. He was also part of the Italian team that propelled Mario Cipollini to a world championship title in Zolder, Belgium, in 2002.
All three are now part of ISD, with Scinto coaching and Cipollini consulting. Bartoli decided to return to racing at the age of 38.
The experienced Bartoli will be a good mentor to younger riders, but for the results Scinto looks to his Eastern bloc. "Now I want to teach the young Ukrainians how to be dedicated in their sport as well," said Scinto. "There are already excellent riders from this country, such as Andriy Grivko, Dmytro Grabovskyy and Volodymyr Dyudya, but we believe the younger ones coming after them in our organisation will be able to develop as well."
At Le Tour de Langkawi, Vitaly Kondrut and Denis Kostyuk will follow the path of Sergey Matveyev who won a time trial in Melaka in 2006. "I'm also confident that our young Italian neo-pro Gianluca Mirenda will be able to do very well in the race," Scinto explained. A few injuries prevented Scinto from bringer a stronger team, but he was optimistic. "We have composed a team of aggressive riders keen to create breakaways." Scinto was also hoping someone could pull off a surprise like he did in 1997.
ISD has made an encouraging debut as a professional team with Grivko finishing fourth overall at the Tour of San Luis in Argentina last week. Le Tour de Langkawi is only their second expedition but they have already gained enough credibility for getting a start at this year's Tour of Italy.