You know the season is getting into full swing when your Inbox is stuffed full of team announcements for imminent races. Here's a few.
Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale "Coppi & Bartali"
Italian teams are targeting the five-day 'Coppi-Bartali Week' which starts today and runs until March 25. Barloworld will field a predominantly young team including Felix Cardenas and Tiaan Kannemeyer who recently rode in South Africa; young Italians Gianpaolo Cheula (fresh from last week's Tirreno-Adriatico) and Mauro Facci (third in the Classic Haribo); Basque riders Pedro Arreitunandia and Amets Txurruka;and James Perry, who is making a return to racing after injury.
"We'll be looking to continue our run of success and strong riding at the Coppi & Bartali," said Barloworld's Valerio Tebaldi who will be the team's directeur sportif. "In every race we've ridden so far this season we've been in the thick of the action and often got impressive results. I'm sure that'll be the case at the Coppi & Bartali with a team of young but very determined riders."
Spain's Saunier Duval Prodir may not be an Italian squad, but the team's Italian superstar Gilberto Simoni will be looking to show some early-season form in the run-up to the Giro d'Italia. Simoni will be supported by Riccardo Ricco, Guido Trentin, Marco Pinotti, Rubens Bertogliati, Angel Gomez Litu, Oliver Zaugg, and Nicolas Fritsch.
Germany's Team Gerolsteiner will roll out a couple of its big guns with Markus Fothen, Heinrich Haussler, Levi Leipheimer, Sven Montgomery, Michael Rich, Matthias Ruß, Georg Totschnig and Beat Zberg. Christian Wegmann will be directeur sportif.
There's a strongly Italian flavour to the Quick Step-Innergetic line-up with Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Francesco Chicchi, Juan Manuel Garate, Jose Antonio Garrido, Ivan Santaromita, Leonardo Scarselli, and Hubert Schwab. Serge Parsani will be directeur sportif.
Italian Professional Continental outfit Team Miche will be represented by Alejandro Alberto Borrajo, Mauro Gerosa, Pasquale Muto, Przemyslaw Niemec, Bo Hamburger, Antonio D'Aniello, Yuri Mitlushenko, and Maurizio Carta.
Another Italian Professional Continental squad, Ceramica Flaminia, will field Manuele Spadi, Stefano Boggia, Krystzof Szczawinski, Gianluca Geremia, Maurizio Varini, Maksym Rudenko and Domenico Quagliariello
Acqua & Sapone Caffe' Mokambo will be represented by Alexander Arekeev, Crescenzo D'Amore, Andrea Masciarelli, Rinaldo Nocentini, Leonardo Moser, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Ondrej Sosenka and Andrea Tonti.
Dwars door Vlaanderen-Waregem
The T-Mobile Team has a youthful squad for this 202km Belgian one-day semi-classic. Twenty-two-year-old Marcus Burghardt was fourth last year in his neo-pro season and he will be joined by Dutchman Bas Giling, sprinter André Greipel, Czech neo-pro Frantisek Rabon, Stephan Schreck, Bram Schmitz and Jörg Ludewig.
"Marcus rode a superb race here last year. The cobbled course really suits him. I am hoping that he can again be right up there when it comes down to the crunch," says Frans van Looy, who will be directing team affairs in Belgium.
The race starts in Kortrijk and takes the riders on a challenging circuitous 202km route through West and East Flanders before the finish in Waregem. The lumpy parcours includes plenty of Flanders' fabled bergs; short, sharp climbs, with the first (Katteberg) coming after 90 kilometres.
Some of the 'bergs' along the route, such as Eikenberg (8 percent), Valkenberg (10 percent) and Oude Kwaremont (11.6 percent), will also feature in the upcoming Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). And the two races have something else in common; plenty of cobbles.
"The roads are narrow and twisting. To avoid getting dropped by a sudden attack, you have to be on the alert at all times", says van Looy.
Alessandro Petacchi will lead Team Milram's assault on this Belgian one-day semi-classic on March 22. He will be supported by Maarten Den Bakker, Simone Cadamuro, Alessandro Cortinovis, Ralf Grabsch, Martin Muller, Marco Velo, and Fabio Sacchi. Directeurs sportifs will be Gianluigi Stanga and Antonio Bevilacqua.
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago will field Bert De Waele, Nico Sijmens, Steven Kleynen, Sjef De Wilde, Filip Meirhaeghe, Kevin Neirinck, Jurgen Van Loocke and Johan Verstrepen. Claude Vancoillie will be directeur sportif.
Tom Boonen may think it's not a good idea for him to win everything, but it's likely he'll want to please home fans when Quick.Step-Innergetic lines up for Dwars door Vlaanderen. He will be supported by Steven De Jongh, Kevin Hulsmans, Servais Knaven, Nick Nuyens, Bram Tankink, Kevin Van Impe, and Wouter Weylandt with Wilfried Peeters in the team car.
Alessandro Petacchi will lead Team Milram again for this race on March 25. He will be supported the same squad as for Dwars door Vlaanderen-Waregem: Maarten Den Bakker, Simone Cadamuro, Alessandro Cortinovis, Ralf Grabsch, Martin Muller, Marco Velo, and Fabio Sacchi. Directeurs sportifs will be Gianluigi Stanga and Antonio Bevilacqua.
Lampre-Fondital will start its Spring Classics campaign at GP Harelbeke with Alessandro Ballan, Enrico Franzoi, Paolo Fornaciari, Daniele Righi, David Loosli, Claudio Corioni, Matteo Carrara and Matteo Bono. The same eight riders will also start Fléche Brabanconne (March 26) and the Ronde van Vlaanderen (April 2).
For the KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (March 28-30), and Gent -Wevelgem (April 5), Lampre-Fondital will field Alessandro Ballan, Enrico Franzoi, Paolo Fornaciari, Daniele Righi, David Loosli, Claudio Corioni, Matteo Carrara and Danilo Napolitano.
Looking further ahead, the team has also announced its line-up for Paris-Roubaix: Alessandro Ballan, Enrico Franzoi, Paolo Fornaciari, Daniele Righi, David Loosli, Claudio Corioni and Matteo Bono.