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Franco Pellizotti with Androni Giocattoli team manager Gianni Savio
Pellizotti latest rider offered second chance
Despite suffering a minor heart attack three month ago Gianni Savio is back on his feet and putting the finishing touches to his Androni Giocattoli team for 2013. With Jose Rujano leading a mini-exodus from the Italian set-up, Savio has been busy in the transfer market and confirmed Franco Pellizotti as his new GC stalwart.
“I’m very well. It’s been three months since my heart attack. I will have another cardiology appointment in a few months as a check up but I feel very well. I have to take some medicine but nothing more so I will continue to lead my life in the same way,” Savio told Cyclingnews.
Androni capped off its 2012 season by winning the Coppa Italia, which in turn secures an automatic invitation for the 2013 Giro d’Italia, a race that Savio has once again marked out as the team’s primary objective.
This year the team had mixed race by its own standards: Miguel Rubiano and Roberto Ferrari claimed stage wins but José Rujano, the squad’s mercurial team leader, failed to emulate his form from previous years and abandoned the Giro d'Italia mid-way. It was a decision that forced Savio to cut the Venezuelan from his team for 2013 but the leadership void was filed by Italian national champion Franco Pellizotti, who returned to the sport after a two year doping ban.
“In the next season we’ll have a competitive team. We’ve confirmed that Pellizotti, Sella, Fellini, Parrinello, and also the Columbian climber Rubiano who won wonderful stage in the Giro. These riders have been confirmed and I think that we will have some other riders like Mattia Gavazzi and Francesco Reda. I know Reda very well from his amateur days. Then he was Quickstep where he worked really hard for Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel. This year he was at Aqua & Sapone and he had some handy results, all the while working very hard for Di Luca. Him and Gavazzi will have some results next year, I am very sure. Then of we course we have our Colombian riders and we’ll have a couple of young Venezuelan riders in the team next year.”
However the departure of Rujano sees the team lose perhaps their most talented rider, with question marks over Pellizotti’s ability to compete at the highest level after his suspension.
“It’s not Rujano leaving it’s more of a case of us not keeping him,” Savio pointed out. “Rujano is a talent, there’s no doubt about that, but he behaved very badly. He quit the Giro just three days before the finish without any reason whatsoever. If he sorts himself out, he can be successful again; I know that, because I doscovered him, but this year he didn’t have the form.”
Pellizotti, now 34, was a genuine overall contender in the Giro d'Italia for a number of years prior to his ban and Savio is confident that the veteran rider can return to his previous standard of results without doping.
“We hope he can do well in the Giro. I’m a realist though. There’s a great spirit in the team and a great group, not just the riders but the technical staff, the mechanics and all the rest. We always want to honour the Giro, not only by winning stages but also by competing for the jerseys. And it’s not just about the results. We honour the Giro by attacking and fighting. We’re always in the breaks and we always try and win. And people should remember that we’re still a pro continental team, so we don’t have the budget of the WorldTour teams."
“Rujano, he was the only rider without our spirit. I wish him luck at getting good results. If he does then I’ll happily select him for the Venezulan team at the Worlds.”
No second chance for Di Luca
One rider who wont be making the switch to Savio’s team is Danilo Di Luca. Like Pellizotti he too has returned from a doping related suspension but at the age of 36 and with a meagre palmares from 2012, he is finding it difficult to find a team after the demise of Acqua & Sapone.
“There’s no chance of signing Di Luca. We have Pellizotti and for me he’s a good rider. He’s the national champion in Italy and a very good person. We’re not able to have two big leader, for us, one leader is enough.”
Savio’s transfer policy can perhaps be described as opportunist and he has offered a home of redemption to a number of ex-dopers. Pellizotti, Scarponi, Sella, Vicioso and Simoni have all ridden for various incarnations of Savio’s team. The Italian manager defends his decisions and policy and points towards the Biological Passport as a tool he now uses when signing riders.
“It’s right to offer a second possibility to a rider who has made mistakes in the past. For us we have strict rules that all the riders have signed. For example if a rider has a doping positive they must pay a penalty that matches the sum of his contract. We follow all our riders closely with the biological passport which means we can monitor them. We won’t sign riders who have shown any anomalies. In the future I would like to even see harder sanctions in cases for riders.”