Following Paolo Bettini's resignation as Italian national coach, former professional rider turned television commentator Davide Cassani is in pole position for the prestigious role, with confirmation expected in the new year.
Bettini is set to play a key role in Fernando Alonso's new team and resigned from the role of Italian national coach on Sunday. Cassani has emerged as the favourite for the position of 'Commissario Tecnico' ahead of fellow former professionals Stefano Zanini, Maurizio Fondriest and Gianni Bugno.
In a vote on the Gazzetta dello Sport website, Cassani secured 38% of the votes ahead of Bugno (15%), Silvio Martinello (9%), Michele Bartoli (9%) and current Trek team manager Luca Guercilena (7%).
Cassani may not have a world champion's palmares but was a valued domestique and a vital road captain for the Italian team in his final years a professional rider. He was selected for the Italian team nine times during his 15-year career He raced from 1982 to 1996, developing from a humble domestique with the Termolan team to become a respected road captain. He raced for Santini, Carrera, Gewiss, Ariostea, MG, and Saeco and won two stages at the Giro d'Italia. He was part of the Carrera team when Stephen Roche won the 1987 Giro d'Italia and won the Tour Méditerranéen in 1994 while at GB-MG.
"There's no point in hiding that Cassani is the number one candidate," Italian Cycling Federation president Renato di Rocco told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"But we've both still got some things to evaluate. We're going to meet in the New Year but I think we both want this to happen."
A new challenge
Cassani recently spent a month in London studying English and the success of cycling in Britain. He is currently on holiday in the British capital but will be back in Italy on January 1 (the day of his 53rd birthday) and then will head to Rome to talk to Di Rocco and his current employer RAI, the Italian state broadcaster. It is possible than Cassani will remain as a TV commentator for much of the season and only become full-time national coach in August and September.
"Everyone knows how proud I was to wear the azzurra jersey in the Italian national team and my history as a member of the team. But to talk about me as the new national coach is a little premature," Cassani told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"But sometimes you feel the need to try something different and look for a new challenge. Perhaps this proposal arrives at the right time.
"We'll talk about in the new year. Before I accept I've got to consider several aspects, especially my role at Raisport and speak to the director Mauro Mazza and the head of cycling Alessandro Fabretti."
Cassani still rides his bike as well as running marathons. He recently completed the Pisa marathon in an impressive time of 2:45.45.