Following a very winning start to the season, Gianni Savio's Serramenti Diquigiovanni Selle Italia team were promptly excluded from the Giro d'Italia, a move that has caused some major stirs. The team has prepared to ensure its invitation for next year by signing a former Giro winner, as Cyclingnews' Steve Thomas finds out.
It was a sunny afternoon in China, and the Serramenti Selle Italia team had just taken both the overall and KOM titles in the Tour of Qinghai Lake, thanks to their veteran Italian duo of Gabrielle Misseglia and Sergio Barbero, both seasoned and well accomplished campaigners who've had their share of the limelight over the years. But that was not the team's big news of the week.
Rumours had been circulating for a while about the team signing Italian hero Gilberto Simoni; we asked team DS Giovanni Ellena what the juice was? "Yes we've signed Simoni, and we're also looking to sign at least one, maybe more riders to support him." Signing someone of Simoni's stature is not typical of the team, who are well known for finding and breeding new talent. "It was a big blow to us not getting into the Giro last year. It was very bad for the team and our sponsors, as the Giro is our biggest race of the year. Gianni (Savio) is determined not to let it happen again, which is the main reason for signing Simoni."
Taking on a star at the end of his career like Simoni and a small support entourage is definitely a good way of waving the flag to the Giro selectors, but it's a huge financial commitment too. "We should have a major increase in the teams standing and budget in the pipeline," said Ellena. "I think it could be from a Swedish company, but that cannot be confirmed yet."
This big increase could put the Professional Continental team into a different league - something that hadn't really been considered before. "I'm not really sure, who knows in the future – we will have 20 riders, so that we can split teams to ride in Europe and the rest of the world."
For team director Gianni Savio, his riders and sponsors, being snubbed by the Giro organisers was a huge blow, and somewhat unjust. The team kicked off the year with three stage wins by three different riders at the Vuelta Tachira in Venezuela. Alberto Loddo opened the team's account on stage one, and his work was followed by wins from Jose Serpa on stage five and Walter Pedraza on stage ten.
To read the full feature on Serramenti Diquigiovanni Selle Italia, click here.