By Jean-François Quénet in Varese, Italy
Ukraine will become the third Eastern European country with its own team competing at the highest level of professional cycling after Kazakhstan with the Astana team and Russia with the Katyusha team. A new Ukrainian team, the ISD-Danieli Team, will be based in Tuscany and be led by team manager Angelo Citracca in the 2009 season.
"We've been working from the foundation - our amateur team Neri Lucchini - and we've signed an agreement with the Ukrainian cycling federation for bringing its riders up to the top level of world cycling," Citracca told Cyclingnews in Varese, site of the UCI Road World Championships.
Previously known as the Finauto team, Neri Lucchini has produced excellent riders in the past under the guidance of Luca Scinto. The former super domestique of Michele Bartoli at MG Technogym, ASICS and Mapei has become a successful coach after retiring at the end of 2002. He was a great help to Mario Cipollini, who claimed the World Championship title in Zolder, Belgium.
It's no surprise that a few former pupils of Scinto will be members of the new ISD-Danieli team. The most famous of them is Giovanni Visconti, who was the Italian champion last year and wore the pink jersey for seven days at the Giro d'Italia this year.
"I've always believed in Visconti as the new Bartoli for his racing style at the one day races," Scinto said. The 2005 U23 World Champion in Madrid, Dmytro Grabovsky, will also return with the Italian coach after two years at Quick Step.
Finally, a major acquisition for ISD Danieli will be Andriy Grivko from Milram.
Eleven riders have signed for the team so far, all from Italy or Ukraine: Maxim Belkov (neo pro), Volodymy Dyudya (Milram), Dmytro Grabovsky (Quick Step), Andriy Grivko (Milram), Denys Kostyuk (ISD Sport Donetsk), Yuriy Metlushenko (Amore e Vita), Ruslan Pidgornyy (LPR), Alessandro Proni (Quick Step), Leonardo Scarselli (Quick Step), Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) and Emmanuele Vona (neo pro). Two big names of Italian cycling are expected to join the team in the coming days, one as a member of the staff and one as a rider.
"It's our intention to make the team grow fast," Citracca said.