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Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli)
Italian champion to target victory at Tirreno-Adriatico
Visconti finished the Tour of Oman 1:19 behind Robert Gesink (Rabobank) but was just three seconds behind Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and finished ahead of Michael Albasini (HTC-Highroad), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) and Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek).
His third place overall, fourth place on the uphill finish on Green Mountain and Andrea Guardini's third place in the stage six sprint proved that despite only being a Professional Continental team, Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli can compete against the major ProTeams in the peloton.
"I'm satisfied with third overall and I'm especially satisfied with my form. I didn’t think my legs would feel this good, so early in the season," Visconti told Cyclingnews before climbing on the final podium with Gesink and Boasson Hagen.
"The Tour of Qatar and then the Tour of Oman were two tough races and I'm sure when I get home and recover, I'll have some solid form to build on the rest of the spring and also excellent moral. It's been a great start to the season for us.
Visconti's next target will be overall success in Tirreno-Adriatico. The week-long stage races begins with a team time trial and ends with a 9.3km individual time trial. Stefano Garzelli won last year ahead of Michele Scarponi and Cadel Evans.
Visconti is convinced he can be a contender because of his time trialing ability.
"Physically I don’t look like I can do well in time trials because I'm pretty good. You have to really like time trials and I do," he explained.
"I thought I had a chance of winning the time trial stage when I saw I'd beaten Boasson Hagen. I pulled back 15 seconds on Cancellara in the second half but Gesink went even faster."
"It's all good for my moral and for chances at Tirreno-Adriatico. I can do well in the hilly stages and then have a chance in the final time trial. I'm up for it."
The Ardennes and then the Giro d'Italia
The Tuscan-based team was not invited to the 2010 Giro d'Italia and also missed most of the Ardennes classics that suit Visconti so well.
He almost abandoned the team to join Liquigas but was persuaded to stay by directeur sportif and mentor Luca Scinto.
Giro d'Italia race director Angelo Zomegnan has already promised them a place in this year's Giro d'Italia and Visconti hopes his result in Oman will secure invitations for Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege from ASO, who were technical organisers in Oman.
A decision on which teams will be invited is expected in early March.
"Third here is a great result for us. We won a stage in Qatar with Guardini and we've racked up a lot of good placings. I think we showed how good we are," Visconti said.
"2011 has to be my breakthrough year and hope we have the fortune to be invited to the Ardennes classics, so that I can give my very best."