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Team Liquigas-Bianchi presentation

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Liquigas' three captains

Liquigas' three captains (Image credit: Liquigas)
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Mario Cipollini

Mario Cipollini (Image credit: CN)
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Mario Cipollini

Mario Cipollini (Image credit: Liquigas)
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Mario Cipollini is motivated again to race with Liquigas

Mario Cipollini is motivated again to race with Liquigas (Image credit: Tim Maloney/Cyclingnews.com)
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Liquigas' three captains Stefano Garzelli, Mario Cipollini and Danilo Di Luca

Liquigas' three captains Stefano Garzelli, Mario Cipollini and Danilo Di Luca (Image credit: Liquigas)
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Mario Cipollini with Liquigas president Paolo Dal Lago

Mario Cipollini with Liquigas president Paolo Dal Lago (Image credit: Liquigas)
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Bello Bianchi

Bello Bianchi (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Management are excited for 2005

Management are excited for 2005 (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Liquigas boss Paolo del Lago

Liquigas boss Paolo del Lago (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Roberto Amadio

Roberto Amadio (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo del Lago reckons it's all good

Paolo del Lago reckons it's all good (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Bald heads and big screens

Bald heads and big screens (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The green ties are pretty schlick, guys

The green ties are pretty schlick, guys (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Pellizotti

Franco Pellizotti (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Dario David Cioni

Dario David Cioni (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Eyes right for the green tie guard

Eyes right for the green tie guard (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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24 Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt

24 Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca sits down on the job

Danilo Di Luca sits down on the job (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca

Danilo Di Luca (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stefano Garzelli looks for the best parking spot

Stefano Garzelli looks for the best parking spot (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca

Danilo Di Luca (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mr Garzelli... your son's on the big screen

Mr Garzelli... your son's on the big screen (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stefano Garzelli

Stefano Garzelli (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Garzelli and Di Luca

Garzelli and Di Luca (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Easy tiger - I mean, lion!

Easy tiger - I mean, lion! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini is back!

Cipollini is back! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini is a happy camper

Cipollini is a happy camper (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Super Mario

Super Mario (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli

Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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I'd like to thank...

I'd like to thank... (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Big smiles!

Big smiles! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The team is presented

The team is presented (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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It's Milan - need we say more...?

It's Milan - need we say more...? (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Relaxed and ready to go

Relaxed and ready to go (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli

Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli

Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli

Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Liquigas Squad

The Liquigas Squad (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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These guys like hanging out together

These guys like hanging out together (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Nice bike, fellas!

Nice bike, fellas! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini and del Lago

Cipollini and del Lago (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stefano Garzelli

Stefano Garzelli (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Can I come out now...?

Can I come out now...? (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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From the smoke...

From the smoke... (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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No stopping till November

No stopping till November (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca looks fit

Danilo Di Luca looks fit (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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There's only one Cipo!

There's only one Cipo! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The lion king emerges

The lion king emerges (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Hangin' out - again!

Hangin' out - again! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The squad

The squad (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A pretty tight bunch

A pretty tight bunch (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli

Cipollini, Di Luca and Garzelli (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini and dal Lago wear the Dolmio grin!

Cipollini and dal Lago wear the Dolmio grin! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Hello boys!

Hello boys! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Wide angle, baby...

Wide angle, baby... (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A smattering of green...

A smattering of green... (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Green machine

Green machine (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Lift that bike!

Lift that bike! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Big things for 25...?

Big things for 25...? (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Team Profile, January 25, 2005

A mean green ProTour machine ready to rock

In a fun, show-bizzy team presentation with top riders riding their bikes on stage through the smoke, the big reveal for the mean green ProTour machine of Team Liquigas-Bianchi happened Milano's East End Studios Tuesday evening, with the return of Mario Cipollini as the highlight. A fit looking Cipo shared the stage with the other key men at Liquigas, Giro hopeful Stefano Garzelli and Danilo Di Luca, who is looking for a big comeback year in 2005. The show was hosted by Italian TV sports personality and former track star Giacomo Crosa, who asked Liquigas boss Paolo del Lago up front why the Italian energy giant has returned to cycling.

"We have been sponsor of the Italian national team jersey for a few years and have a national mountain bike series (Liquigas Cup) but when we heard about the ProTour, we thought that it was a good idea. This is something new in cycling, a situation where all the ProTour teams have the same objective. It's an ideal situation for us."

Del Lago brought back Roberto Amadio, who had run the previous incarnation of the Liquigas squad. Amadio hired two excellent team directors from Fassa Bortolo, Stefano Zanatta and Roberto Damiani, who set about putting together a highly competitive squad for 2005, with a mix of experienced veterans and some good neo-pros. "Our focus is to do well in the ProTour and have the best results possible", explained Amadio. "We've got the excellent resources of Liquigas behind us to do it."

Although Mario Cipollini thought his career was probably over when he was at the World Championships last year in Verona, a chance encounter with del Lago and Amadio changed everything. Both men understood that Cipo could launch their mean green Liquigas machine with a big bang and Cipo still wanted to race, so the deal was done and Mega-Mario is ready to go again. Although he'll be 38 in March, Cipollini showed up today at the Liquigas presentation looking tan and trim from two weeks of hard training in South Africa. Sources close to Cipo told Cyclingnews that the 2002 World Champion is in fantastic form and wants to open the season with a win as soon as possible. "It seems like I'm in good shape, but I still have to race," explained the always eloquent Cipo.

"At this point, I know I've done my best to get ready for the season. Yes, the team has put together a strong train for me, but at this point the only real question mark is me." When asked if he was the oldest rider in the ProTour, a bemused Cipollini said, "I don't know; I'll be 38 in March, so perhaps...that will give me a double satisfaction if I win since I will be the oldest ProTour rider."

Cipo will have a powerful leadout train in 2005, with Loda, Zanotti, Milesi and Bäckstedt as his opening acts, a fact that pleased Cipo muchly. "This is an excellent group and I've never had such a big man (as Bäckstedt) to race behind." The Liquigas-Bianchi train will be in action for the first time ever this Sunday in Qatar, as Mario and his mean green teammates leave for the Gulf on Wednesday morning to prepare for their first race of the season. But Mario isn't just looking short term. He explained that his season objectives are clear. "Of course, Milano-Sanremo is important for me; that's my first big objective of the season. Then I will focus on Gent-Wevelgem and the Giro d'Italia. As usual, the main adversaries will be Petacchi, McEwen, Freire, Zabel...there are always plenty."

Fresh from winter training in Valencia, Spain, Liquigas-Bianchi's stage race leader Stefano Garzelli wants only one race in 2005: the Giro d'Italia, the race he won five years ago. The always composed Garzelli explained that, "I've been training well since December 1 and this season, I'm hoping to not make the same small mistakes as last year in my preparation. I'm doing more base miles than last year. This is an exceptional team and I have a good feeling so far; even from our first training camp in December, we had a good group. So I'm looking to be at 100 percent when the Giro starts."

Asked if being considered an outsider to the highly touted Cunego-Basso duel in the upcoming Giro, Garzelli smiled and said, "Last year's Giro was supposed to be Simoni-Garzelli duel but in the end, neither of us did as well as we had hoped. Both Cunego and Basso will have plenty of pressure to succeed and I'll be there to do my best and hope to play my cards until the end in Milano." Garzelli starts his season in his Spanish backyard in the Tour of Valencia and when the Giro starts in May, he can count on the support of Cioni, Noè' and Wegelius and will have the powerful presence of Dario Cioni as well.

Danilo Di Luca is coming off several years where he had hoped for better results, but either bad luck or injuries have stopped the explosive 29 year-old Italian rider from fully coming into his own. "I'm happy for the change of scene to this team and I really want 2005 to be a big year, a comeback year for me."

Di Luca and his teammate Cioni and other riders will leave in the next few days for a three week training camp in Toluca, Mexico and he'll make his season race start in Milano-Torino on March 5. "This year, I'm looking forward to the Giro d'Italia," said Di Luca. "I like the stages in the first ten days; they look good for me and if everything goes well, I might even be able to take the Maglia Rosa."

2004 Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Bäckstedt has one date in mind: April 10, the day of guess which race. The always friendly Maggie B. told Cyclingnews how much he enjoyed his recent experience at the Rotterdam Six-Day. "It was great! It was my first six and I took some time to adjust to the tight 200m track. I'd never done one before and will certainly be back." After speaker Crosa embarrassed Bäckstedt into saluting his teammates in five of his six languages, the cheerful Swede just smiled while his fellow Swede Marcus Ljungqvist tried hard not to crack up on stage.

Italo-Brit Dario Cioni was all smiles as well and told Cyclingnews that he was really happy so far with the vibes at the Liquigas-Bianchi squad. "The Giro d'Italia is a major objective for me this year; I think it will be good to ride together with Stefano Garzelli as allies."

100 percent Brit Charlie Wegelius was also embarrassed by speaker Crosa, who made him ask the team manager a question in Milanese dialect. Wegelius, who has raced in Italy for many years and handled the challenge with aplomb. Charlie echoed Cioni's positive perceptions of the early days at Liquigas-Bianchi, and told Cyclingnews that his main objective was to play a strong support role at the Giro d'Italia this year. Although the mean green machine they call Liquigas-Bianchi has yet to pound a pedal in anger yet in 2005, on paper the 26 man team looks like it could be a powerhouse outfit this season.

Click here to read an interview with Mario Cipollini

Full team roster

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