By Gregor Brown
Italian Franco Pellizotti of Team Liquigas will race the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France Grand Tours in 2009. The winner of the Plan de Corones mountain time trial will co-captain in his home tour with Ivan Basso and join Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger in the French race.
"We will start with two captains," Pellizotti said to Cyclingnews regarding the Giro d'Italia. "The team gives me the responsibility to play my cards and I think it is right to allow me to make my race. If [Basso] shows to be better than me then okay, I will help him."
Pellizotti spent four days in the early part of this year's Giro wearing the maglia rosa of race leader. Though he lost the jersey, he went on two win one of the Giro's most epic stages, the 12.9-kilometre time trial up the dirt and gravel roads of Plan de Corones. It was his only win of a season marked with numerous top finishes, including fourth overall in the Giro, second in the Tour de Slovénie and third in the Tour de Pologne.
Pellizotti will share leadership responsibilities with Basso, a new signing and winner of the 2006 Giro. Basso is returning to the sport following a two-year suspension for his implication in the doping investigation Operación Puerto. He will face his first Grand Tour in three years, slightly less time away than that taken by Lance Armstrong. The American is returning to the sport following his retirement in July of 2005 and will be one of Liquigas' rivals for victory.
"The years also pass for Armstrong. ... I have matured and, hopefully, he has aged some. We will see."
Pellizotti is training and programming the season with teammates at Liquigas' first camp for the new year. He remarked there is little actual training, but lots of bonding and group building exercises.
Kreuziger and Nibali, both who battled for the Tour's maillot blanc of best young rider this year, will not race the Giro.