By Gregor Brown
Alvaro Crespi aims to steer Fuji-Servetto in the right direction for the 2009 season. The Italian is the newly appointed team manager of the Spain-based team – known in 2008 as Saunier Duval.
"Our first objective is to race. We have had some issues with the Tour de France organisation and we have to see what Gazzetta [RCS Sport] decides to do," said Crespi to Cyclingnews. The race organisers may not invite the Fuji team due to its ties with the 2008 Saunier Duval team.
Crespi is returning today from Australia where he led his team at the ProTour-level Tour Down Under, but back in Europe he may have problems entering Amaury Sport Organisation or RCS Sport's races (namely the Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France).
The team faced its share of scandals in 2008. Two of its riders – Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli – forced the entire team to leave the Tour de France after testing positive for blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO). The controls resulted in suspensions for the riders and lose of sponsors for the team run by Mauro Gianetti and Joxean Fernández Matxin.
"Mauro is still the administrator of the organisation and fifty-percent owner [Matxin the other 50% - ed.]. He has pulled back completely from managing the team; he spends his time only on the sponsorship and the administration the society."
Crespi is modest when it comes to naming objectives because he still needs to confirm the team can race in upcoming races like Paris-Nice, March 8 to 15, and Tirreno-Adriatico, March 11 to 17. Despite a recent meeting with UCI ProTour's Alain Rumpf he is not convinced of the team's right to enter the races.
"Rights? If the Tour leaves us out what do we do? Rumph explained that we could fight any possible decision."
The team will meet from February 2 to 7 in Castagneto Carducci, Italy, for its first team camp. After a team presentation organised by Paolo Bettini in Cecina, it will open its European season with the GP Etruschi on February 7.
"We are not as bad off as many will say. Look at [Juan José] Cobo, last year he was going strong. I believe that he did not do what the others [Riccò and Piepoli] did or he would be in the same position as them now. I am also looking towards the growth of Eros Capecchi – he is young and has a lot of potential."
The Spain-based team mainly consists riders from the Iberian Peninsula. In addition, the team of 24 riders has five Italians, two Australians – Will Walker and Hilton Clarke – two Swedes, a Russian and a Cuban – Ivan Dominguez.