By Gregor Brown
Due to health problems that have hampered José Angel Gomez Marchante preparations and a strong racing desire by a refreshed Riccardo Riccò, Saunier Duval-Scott has decided to reshape its nine-man Tour de France team. Italy's Riccò, winner of two stages and second overall at last month's Giro d'Italia, will captain the team for the three-week race where he will have climbing ace Leonardo Piepoli along side for support.
"He asked if he could race the Italian Championships [June 29] and then, if [DS Joxean Fernández] Matxin agreed, if he could do the Tour," Saunier Duval-Scott directeur sportif Pietro Algeri said.
Instead of waiting until after his country's nationals this weekend, the 24 year-old told his team that he wants to race the Tour on Tuesday morning, prompting the Spanish squad's announcement.
Riccò has not officially raced since finishing second overall in the Giro d'Italia, where he also claimed the young rider classification and won the Agrigento and Tivoli stages. The Italian was slated to race the Tour de Suisse, June 14 to 22, but decided to stay home at the last minute.
"When the moment came to depart for the Tour de Suisse he said, 'I don't feel it; I really just want to sleep,' and so on," Algeri said. "I reassured him that he won't lose his form, not in just a week's time, and that if he is tired in the head, after two or three days rest, the desire to race will return.
"He told me that I was right, 'I had two or three days of only sleeping and the desire came back. Everyday [after], I trained just a little bit more and just a little bit better,'" added Algeri.
Riccò reportedly performed a mountain test near his home in Formigine (Modena) and recorded more or less the same time that he had set going into the Giro d'Italia. Algeri stated that Riccò will evaluate his form after the first mountain stages and decide if he will ride for the classification or not.
"He said that he does not have a lot of big adversaries, maybe more at the Giro," said Algeri.
The last and only time he raced the French Grand Tour was in 2006, when he finished 97th overall riding at the side of then team leader Gilberto Simoni. This time around it will be Riccò captaining the squad and will have the help of compatriot Piepoli, who crashed out of the Giro d'Italia.
"Piepoli is going well and has not really raced a lot race this season," said Algeri. "'It was a shame to leave the Giro and not do anything, and I want to do something at the Tour,' Piepoli said."
Juan José Cobo, David De La Fuente, Josep Jufré, Alberto Fernández De La Puebla, Jesús Del Nero and Ángel Gómez Gómez will help fill out the team's roaster, with the ninth spot going to Rubén Lobato, Aurélien Passeron or Rubens Bertogliati.