Davide Cassani has returned to Italy from the Vuelta a Espana with a long list of riders under consideration for the coveted nine places in the Italian team for the World Championship Elite men's road race on September 28.
Cassani took over the role of 'CT' or Commissario Tecnico from Paolo Bettini at the start of 2014. He has confirmed he will name the 16 riders pre-selected for the race on Friday and then name his final 11 riders (nine starters and two reserves) on Thursday, September 18, after the Tre Valli Varesine race in Italy, the final race of the Trittico Lombardo.
Cassani will select riders from those competing at the Vuelta and others in action in Italy and at the Tour of Britain. Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali will be the team leader but his lack of racing and form is likely to mean he will not be the team's protected leader.
“Everything, not only our tactics, will be shaped by his form. There's a big question mark because he missed a lot of days before he began training. It depends if he's at 80% or 100% but he'll still be useful,” Cassani said, clearly downgrading his hopes that Nibali can play a key role in an Italian victory.
Cassani does not have a clear team leader, with several riders possibly having the space to ride for victory. These include Fabio Aru (Astana), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF) who will polish their form at the Tour of Britain, and Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Cassani has visited the Ponferrada course with several riders and knows Italy does not have a sprinter capable of taking on John Degenkolb or Tom Boonen in a sprint finish. Cassani will want his riders to make the race hard and get into the key breaks.
He has nominated Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) as his road captain, with Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Manuel Quinziato (BMC), Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) likely key workers.
“Daniele (Bennati) is doing an excellent job for Contador at the Vuelta. He knows how to move in the peloton and is one of the best riders in the world in that role. When a winner can change into a worker, it means he's a complete rider. He's also fast and so if he gets in the right break, that would be good for us,” Cassani said.
“Fabio (Aru) is going really well and I expected that. I know he really wants an Azzurra jersey. Going for the overall at the Vuelta is tough but he's got the time to recover.”
Filippo Pozzato has fought himself back into contention, as has his Lampre-Merida Damiano Cunego.
“Damiano has comeback into contention and I'm curiuos to see what he can do. It's the same for Pippo. I'll take him to the pre-race camp and then it'll be up to him to tell how he's going and what he can do.”
The Italian team will gather in Bra, in the heart of the Langhe wine region in Piemonte on Sunday September 21 and then fly to Spain on Wed Sep 24. The Elite mens road race is on Sunday Sep 28.