By Jean-François Quénet
The team with seemingly the world's longest name – Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli (not to mention the sub-sponsors, including Selle Italia) – will open a new chapter in its 25-year history with the inclusion of German sprinter Danilo Hondo who will make his return to competition at the Vuelta San Luis in Argentina (January 22-27). This will be a warm-up for him before the first goal of his second career set to be Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia (February 9-17). "I want to come back as one of the best sprinters in the world", he told the German agency dpa.
Hondo was already scheduled for the Malaysian event last year under the colours of Tinkoff Credit System for which he actually never rode since his ban was extended for one more year in an endless process of court cases and arbitration. He tested positive for carphedon at the 2005 Vuelta a Murcia just before coming second to Alessandro Petacchi in Milano-Sanremo. He made a first successful but brief come back in 2006 with Continental team Lamonta for which he won eight races.
Strangely, instead of racing Le Tour de Langkawi with Tinkoff, he'll replace with a twelve-months delay five-time stage winner Alberto Loddo who transferred from Diquigiovanni to... Tinkoff. The sprinter from Sardegna was frustrated missing the Giro starting on his island when RCS denied Diquigiovanni a wild card. Next month, it should be an interesting duel between Loddo and Hondo as the 2008 Le Tour de Langkawi will feature seven flattish stages prior to the grueling climb of Genting Highlands.
"I expect Danilo [Hondo] to be in good shape because I know that he has worked hard", said the optimistic team manager of Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli Gianni Savio. "He went on a first training camp by himself in Cyprus, after that he went for another one in South Africa just like he did in the past. We know that he's usually a good rider for the early part of the year but in 25 years of managing a cycling team, I never announced any win before the start of a race. We always compete with a total respect for our adversaries and the race organization."
While Tinkoff has chosen to not pursue its experience with controversial riders like Tyler Hamilton and Jörg Jaksche, Savio has no problem giving another chance to Hondo who has been given the green light by the UCI for resuming racing since December 25, 2007. "I believe in his good faith", the Italian team manager said. "He has provided all the documents showing that he didn't dope, so I consider it would be unfair to leave him aside while others who have obviously doped are still allowed to race." Savio refused to make names but he clearly referred to riders involved in the blood transfusion scandal of Operation Puerto, something that Hondo has never been linked with.
The Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli roster for the 2008 Le Tour de Langkawi will also include the winner of the Genting Highlands stage in 2006 and 2007 José Serpa from Colombia, Jackson Rodriguez and Carlos Ochoa (both from Venezuela), Italy's Francesco Ginanni and Ruslan Ivanov from Moldavia.