By Jean-François Quénet in Riese Pio X
Although Liquigas is doing a perfect job at the service of Danilo Di Luca since they won the inaugural team time trial in Sardegna, Saunier Duval is definitely the most spectacular squad of this year's Giro d'Italia. They have won three prestigious stages with Leonardo Piepoli at the sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Guardia, Riccardo Riccò at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Gilberto Simoni up the Zoncolan, and the team missed out on a first stage win in Bergamo in a contested finale where Stefano Garzelli allegedly got some help from the motorbikes.
The future of the roster is in question in Italy as Riccò is high demand on the market, especially by Milram, who is in search of a climber, but the young Italian prodigy is under contract with Saunier Duval until the end of 2008. Riccò is openly aiming for a better financial deal, as he read in the Italian newspapers that his value has been multiplied by fifteen - reaching €600,000 per year.
Riccò also wants to be granted the status of a captain. He's prepared to leave if he doesn't get what he wants from team manager Mauro Gianetti. On the other hand, Simoni is out of a contract for next year. Aged 36, he doesn't want to race the Giro as a captain anymore. But he pretends he'd like to stay with Saunier Duval. It will be time for discussions after the Tour of Italy.
With such a strong team, it is surprising to find that none of the three stars of the Giro will be lined up by Saunier Duval at the Tour de France. Only Iban Mayo will double up. David Millar will start in London with high ambitions for the prologue, and Christophe Rinero will keep the French flavour of the team. The rest will be Spanish with José Angel Gomez Marchante possibly in the role of captain, Iker Camaño, Tour of the Basque country winner Juan José Cobo, David De La Fuente, Ruben Lobato and Francisco Ventoso.