Three years after his epic ride at the Giro d'Italia where he won three stages and the king of the mountains title followed by a positive test for EPO in July that year, Emmanuele Sella is back on track for another good showing in what is set to be an Italian tour for climbers.
His recent third place overall at Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, combined with the win for his neo professional team-mate Yonathan Monsalve, has pleased Androni Gioccatoli team manager Gianni Savio who has picked Sella as a potential successor of Michele Scarponi.
"Le Tour de Langkawi was a great experience for my debut with my new team," Sella told Cyclingnews. "I didn't have my best form yet as I hadn't trained much for this race, unlike Monsalve, who rode under warm conditions in Venezuela.
"I would have liked to know Genting Highlands before climbing it but I'm very satisfied anyway. I felt very good within this team and I want to repay Gianni for the confidence he put in me."
Savio hired Sella from the defunct Continental oufit CarmioOro that didn't receive an invitation to the Giro last year. Sella, 30, only served a one-year ban because he co-operated with investigators but race organiser Angelo Zomegnan wasn't keen to welcome back a rider who had failed a dope test so recently.
However, this year is another story. Sella, Riccardo Riccó and Danilo Di Luca are eligible again while Davide Rebellin remains likely to come back on time and Franco Pellizotti still awaits a final decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport in his battle against the UCI concerning his biological passport.
One year after the successful returns of Ivan Basso and Scarponi, controversy will be once again in the air at the start in Turin in early May.
"I care a lot about the Giro," Sella said. "I want to do well at other races too but it's at the Giro that I want to demonstrate my real value. I want to win something important after the transition year I've had last season. I've been patient."
Sella joined Androni Gioccatoli as a result of Scarponi's departure to Lampre-ISD. The rider implicated in Operacion Puerto won the queen stage to Aprica and finished fourth overall in last year's Giro. "It would be nice to do as well as him," Sella commented. "But we have different stories and we are different types of rider."
Savio insisted that he's keen to give former dopers a second chance under the condition that they admit their mistakes and re-start their career with a new approach. His legendary low budget also imposes constraints on him to recruit riders whose market value has decreased.
After the departure of Scarponi and Leonardo Bertagnolli however, he has put together an interesting team of climbers for a Giro d'Italia set to suit them. Colombia's José Serpa, who finished second at the Giro di Reggio Calabria one week ago, is still on board while Androni has a phenomenal duo of Venezuelan climbers with the return of José Rujano - who came third in the corsa rosa in 2006 - and the arrival of neo-pro Monsalve, who just won Le Tour de Langkawi.
"We're people who make spectacle in the climbs," Sella noted. Without being a ProTeam, Androni Gioccatoli has already secured a start at this year's Giro after winning the Italian cup last year.