By Gregor Brown
Italian Danilo Napolitano is looking forward to a season of record wins, one of which he hopes is the Sprinters' Monument, Milano-Sanremo. The 26 year-old – winner of the Giro d'Italia's Lido di Camaiore stage – will have full support in the sprints from Team Lampre after the departure of Daniele Bennati to Liquigas.
After spending Christmas with his family in Vittoria (Sicily), Italy, where he accumulated 2000 kilometres of training, 'Napo' is currently in Spain where he will pass the new year and build a base for the coming season. He is stationed in Gran Canaria of the Canary Islands with team-mates Fabio Baldato, Mauro Santambrogio and Daniele Righi, and their directeur sportif, Fabio Bontempi.
"It is not a phase of preparation in which the presence of a directeur is detrimental," confirmed Bontempi to Tuttosport. "In the past years some of of our other riders have managed their own training in the Canaries over the New Year." The riders are averaging 120 kilometres a day, and will remain on the island until January 10.
Napolitano will make his season debut with the sprint-friendly Tour of Qatar, January 27. "Cipollini, Boonen and the other great sprinters have won in there in the past years," noted Napolitano of his desire to get going early on. "I am counting on showing soon because I want 2008 to be my record year."
It will be the fifth professional season for the rider who bases himself near Brescia. In 2007 he accumulated eight victories, including his first stage win in the Giro d'Italia. "In 2008 I want to obtain more than 10."
He will not take one of those wins in this year's Giro since Bontempi has other plans. "It will not do it because it is designed for climbers, realistically, with only two stages adapted for the sprinters," explained Bontempi. "It will be a Giro where the sprinters will be useless in the last week. Last year I selected Napolitano for the Giro, and I was criticised. Now they criticise me because I am not selecting him for the Giro, but I can confirm that he will aim for wins in the Tour de France. We will put in place a train that consists of [Massimiliano] Mori, [Alessandro] Ballan, Righi, [Paolo] Fornaciari and Baldato."
"It is the same [train] that was given to Bennati to win the big races, and now it will guide me," chimed in Napolitano with enthusiasm.
After Qatar, he will race the GP Etruschi, Giro di Grosseto and the Milano-Sanremo. "Above all, Sanremo is my objective," he continued. "Then I would like to wear the points jersey in the Tour de France; it would be enough if only for three or four days. To arrive in Paris – at the end of the Tour – would be the best. We will try."