By Gregor Brown
The big Italian names are starting their 2007 seasons preparing for yearly objectives, like the Spring Classics or Grand Tours. Yesterday in France was the traditional European season opener, the GP d'Ouverture, but for Italy the race that kicks off the season is the GP Costa degli Etruschi, February 10.
World champion Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) has confirmed that Donoratico will be his season start. Il Grillo Livornese will be racing on home turf against sprinters like Alessandro Petacchi (Milram). The race will prepare him for his early season objectives, Milano-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders.
2006 Sanremo winner Filippo Pozzato will make his Liquigas debut in Spain. Pippo, eyeing a repeat in Italy's big one-day race, March 24, will start in the Trofeo Mallorca on February 11 according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Joining Pippo will be teammate Danilo Di Luca, who will be building for the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d'Italia.
Other Giro favourites start later. Ivan Basso, 2006 Giro winner, will make his Discovery Channel debut in the west, at the Tour of California, February 18 - 25. He is building for a Giro-Tour de France double and will have the backing of the entire American squad to achieve the goal.
One of Basso's major rivals, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital), will start his season on the same day, but in Spain, at the Ruta del Sol, February 18 - 22. Il Piccolo Principe will concentrate solely on the Giro for 2007, hoping to repeat his victory of 2004.
Last of the Giro favourites to start is Il Falco Bergamasco, Paolo Savoldelli. The two-time Giro winner will make his debut in Astana colours on March 7 at the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia. Of note, is that fellow two-time Giro winner, Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir), has already started his season, when he participated in the Vuelta a San Luis on January 23.
Chronologically, the Italian cycling stars will make their 2007 racing debuts at the following events:
Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir) - Vuelta a San Luis, January 23
Paolo Bettini (Quick-Step) - GP Costa degli Etruschi, February 10
Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) - Trofeo Mallorca, February 11
Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) - Trofeo Mallorca, February 11
Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel) - Tour of California, February 18
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) - Ruta del Sol, February 18
Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) - Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, March 7