By Tim Maloney, European Editor
On a cold weekend in Northern Italy, the Safi-Pasta Zara-Manhattan team of Maurizio Fabretto got together for their first technical meetings and training camp with the 2006 season in sight. Although team leader Rochelle Gilmore was not present as she is preparing for the Commonwealth Games at home in Australia, and Nicole Cooke is no longer on the squad, Safi-Pasta Zara-Manhattan has plenty of new riders ready to brave the winter chill and snow on their new Opera bicycles. "We have four new Italian riders on our team", Team manager Fabretto told Cyclingnews. "Marta Bastianelli, Daniela Fusar Poli, Silvia Parietti and Luisa Tamanini will join our team, Rochelle (Gilmore) will be back with us and we also expect Diana Zilute to have a strong year in 2006."
Fabretto's new direttore sportivo for 2006 will be Rosario Fina, who is already national selector for Italian woman's road cycling. Safi-Pasta Zara-Manhattan's first race of the 2006 season will be the Woman's World Cup in Geelong, Australia next February.
As for Nicole Cooke, Fabretto confirmed that she will not be back with Safi-Pasta Zara-Manhattan in 2006. "We had three great seasons with Nicole and wish her well," he said. Although Cooke's 2006 squad will not be revealed until a December 9 press conference, informed sources believe the talented Welshwoman, second in the 2005 World Championships in Madrid, could end up replacing former World Champ Judith Arndt at the Nurnberger Insurance team, who has moved to the new T-Mobile women's squad.