Vini Fantini is set to cease sponsorship of Luca Scinto and Angelo Citracca’s Pro Continental outfit at the end of this season and instead back a new team based in the Abruzzo region.
According to a report in Italian newspaper Il Centro, Vini Fantini owner Valentino Scitotti will be one of the backers of a new venture, which will be managed by Stefano Giuliani, formerly a directeur sportif with the Pro Continental team and this year manager of the affiliated under-23 squad, Vini Fantini - D'Angelo & Antenucci.
Giuliani is the father-in-law of Danilo Di Luca, the rider who signed for Vini Fantini shortly before this year’s Giro d’Italia only to test positive for EPO. Di Luca had signed for Vini Fantini expressly at the behest of Sciotti, in spite of the initial misgivings of Scinto and Citracca.
Di Luca’s teammate Mauro Santambrogio also later tested positive for EPO after winning a stage at the Giro, and the scandals cast considerable doubt over the future of the Vini Fantini-Selle Italia team, who returned its wildcard invitation to the Tour of Lombardy to organisers RCS Sport by way of apology.
Il Centro reports that Giuliani’s new team could be unveiled at the world championships in Florence next month and would seek a Pro Continental licence for 2014. Current Vini Fantini-Selle Italia riders Fabio Taborre and Roberto De Patre have been linked with joining the team.
Earlier this week, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia general manager Angelo Citracca told Il Tirreno that his and Scinto’s riders were free to look for other teams for next season and said that his team had only “a 25 percent chance of going ahead.”
Although Citracca had already conceded that Vini Fantini was unlikely to continue to sponsor his team next year, on Friday he expressed surprise that the wine company was about to back another squad instead.
“I’m stunned. We knew there was a project to put together a Continental team that would have brought some promising youngsters from the amateur Vini Fantini – D’Angelo & Antenucci team to a higher level, but I didn’t know that our current main sponsor was involved,” Citracca told Tuttobici.
“As for our team, we’re working for next season. We have reached some agreements and we’re working to involve other companies. Mr. Sciotti had told us that he would try to continue his sponsorship but he’s never given us an official response.”