By Gregor Brown in Rome
Tinkoff Credit Systems held its 2007 team presentation last night in the Eternal City of Rome. The Italy-based team, backed by Russian bike enthusiast and businessman Oleg Tinkoff, was on display at a swanky jazz club amongst celebrities, including two Formula One drivers and two AS Roma footballers, but more important were the cycling dignitaries.
The team is only a Professional Continental team and will have to rely on wild card invitations to the big races. Its goal will be the Giro d'Italia, with other Italian ProTour races almost guaranteed. A very good signal for the team was the presence of Italian national DS Franco Ballerini, president of the Italian cycling federation (FCI) Renato Di Rocco and Director of the Giro d'Italia Angelo Zomegnan; the last being the key to Tinkoff's invite to the Corsa Rosa in May.
"We will have 18 ProTour teams and four wild cards," said Zomegnan to Cyclingnews Tuesday night. This means that two ProTour teams will be left at home, while opening the doors for more Pro-Conti teams that have a strong desire to race the Giro, like Tinkoff Credit Systems.
One of its biggest signings over the off-season was American Tyler Hamilton. "It is exciting to start with such a group of young riders [the majority of the Russians - ed.] that are eager to learn," explained Hamilton, who, along with Danilo Hondo and Salvatore Commesso, will be the team's experienced rider and act as a guide for the younger members.
The team was looking tan and ready to race, after a gorgeous week in Toscana for training. German Hondo will have to wait longer to start, until the end of March, due to a decision by the Swiss courts. He will miss out on his favourite race, the Milano-Sanremo, but perhaps it will provide greater motivation for later events.
"Everyone is hungry of competition," explained the German to Cyclingnews, who is based in Switzerland, near Lugano. "Look, I will miss the races in March, like Sanremo, but I have worked for two years and two more months won't be much. Maybe it will be even better overall; I will be ready for the following races, while some of the riders might already be tiring."
Part of the team will start 2007 in the Tour de Langkawi, February 2 - 11, while a second group will head to France for the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise on February 6. A complete team presentation report will follow soon on Cyclingnews.
Team riders for 2007: Tyler Hamilton (USA), Elio Aggiano (Ita), Pavel Brutt (Rus), Ilya Chernetsky (Rus), Salvatore Commesso (Ita), Daniele Contrini (Ita), Danilo Hondo (Ger), Sergey Klimov (Rus), Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus), Ruggero Marzoli (Ita), Anton Mindlin (Rus), Evgeni Petrov (Rus), Ivan Rovny (Rus), Alexander Serov (Rus), Ricardo Serrano (Spa), Nikolai Trussov (Rus), Steffen Weigold (Ger) and Vasil Kiryienka (Blr).
A full listing of the team can be found on the Cyclingnewsteams database.