By Daniel Benson in Langkawi
Despite limited experience as a directeur sportif of a major trade outfit, Marcello Albasini of Cervélo TestTeam believes that any such deficiency can be overcome by the special nature of his new team. Just a few months into the team's inaugural season and Swiss outfit have hit the floor running, scoring significant wins at the Tour of Qatar, while also fighting for top honours at the Tour de Langkawi.
Albasini, father of Columbia professional Michael, served as the Swiss national coach for 10 years and sits alongside Alex Sans Vega, Jean-Paul Van Poppel, Jens Zemke, Manel Lacambra and Patrick Banfi as the team's directeurs. None of the above has served as a directeur for a major men's team but were cherry-picked by the team's manager Thomas Campana in order to create a unique blend of management and leadership.
"This was a new challenge for me," Albasini told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Langkawi. "After over 10 years with the Swiss national team I felt like I needed a change. My budgets were continually being cut back further and further and I'm a guy who likes to do the best he possibly can, but it got to the point where that wasn't possible anymore."
Cervélo approached Albasini in late 2008 and the timing for both parties couldn't have been better. "You can't say we have no experience. After all a race is race, whether it's the worlds or a Classic. Yes, of course some things are different between the level I was working at and where I am now but that's not a problem," he said.
"For example, here I have 25 riders to prepare and look after them all year around. In the national team it's just six riders picked on form. I used to have them for a few days and regardless of how they performed they always went home and back to their teams."
Certainly that's a shift in work pattern that can't be underestimated. Moving from a set up that involved selecting riders based simply of form has shifted to moulding, training, and harmonising a team from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds - and not just a seasoned outfit - a new one with all the teething problems that come along.
"We're planning a lot more. We have race schedules laid out for the season and all the riders have clear and defined goals. Unlike my previous role I'm working alongside the riders more," he explained. "Before it was about laying down the law, here it's about establishing the law. You can't tell me I have to spend time getting guys like Carlos Sastre and Thor Hushovd focussed on their training. Those guys have been around long enough to know what's expected of them and they're integral to help shaping the futures of some of the younger riders."
Albasini and his colleagues tap into the wealth of experience from riders like Sastre, Hushovd and Hammond. "We ask, what worked for you at your old team? What didn't work? From that we can outline our philosophy and make a team that gives every rider what they need to do well."
It's too early to tell how Cervelo's season will pan out. Yet as they work towards building a close-knit unit the prospects are good if not already backed up by their results so far.