When Ivan Santaromita, then freshly crowned as Italian champion, announced in the summer of 2013 that he was leaving BMC for Orica-GreenEdge, he spoke hopefully of how his new team would "give him space to grow as a rider".
Two seasons later, and after a restricted diet of racing during the 2015 campaign, Santaromita finds himself lining out at Continental level with the SkyDive Dubai outfit, following a less than fond farewell from the Australian team.
"Last year I only did 35 race days, and I think that’s a bit hard for a rider. I like to train and all that, but a rider needs to race. I raced very little last year, and I found myself in a situation that wasn’t easy," Santaromita told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Qatar.
Santaromita’s problems at Orica-GreenEdge surfaced in the public domain as early as the opening night of the Giro d’Italia two years ago. He had not been given the honour of leading the team across the finish line in the Belfast team time trial to claim the first pink jersey of the race, and he was vocal in his disappointment. "I was the champion of Italy, and it was the Giro d’Italia," he said this week. "But it was their decision."
Towards the end of his tenure at Orica-GreenEdge last season, Santaromita’s unhappiness at the team became increasingly evident, though he remains vague on the precise reasons for the apparent breakdown in communication.
"It was just different ways of thinking, dai. Two different mentalities," he said, adding: "The longer it went on, the worse it got."
At the end of 2015, and with sixth place at the Tour of Norway the best result from his time at Orica-GreenEdge, Santaromita, by his own admission, had a shortage of suitors at WorldTour and Pro Continental level during the off-season, particularly given his reluctance to follow the apparently all too common Italian practice of having a personal sponsor pay his wages.
"I know that problem exists in Italy, but I’m not the one who can solve it. It’s up to someone else. I’ll just say that cycling is a job, it’s a profession, and riders’ compensation should reflect that."
Santaromita eventually found a home on SkyDive Dubai, where Alberto Volpi, previously his directeur sportif at Liquigas, is part of the management. The team’s roster includes fellow Italian Andrea Palini, Francisco Mancebo, who has spent almost the entire decade since Operacion Puerto at Continental level, and Rafaâ Chtioui.
"This project has a decent prospect of growing in the coming years, so I’m riding with them," said Santaromita, who is targeting a return to a higher level of racing in 2017.
"We’ll go to Malaysia and Taiwan after this, but then we head into a European calendar, with some races in Italy like Coppi e Bartali, which I won in 2013, Trentino, and some races in Spain.
"We’ll see. I feel good here, but obviously, the WorldTour is the WorldTour, so I want to get the kind of results I need to get back to the level I was at in 2013."