2007 Giro champion joins Savoldelli with Spezialetti
By Gregor Brown
Danilo Di Luca confirmed he will ride for Team LPR in 2008, with the Italian signing off on the deal at the team's headquarters in Rottofreno (Piacenza), Italy on Tuesday. The winner of the 2007 Giro d'Italia joins the squad's recent signing Paolo Savoldelli, who has also won the Italian Grand Tour, under the guidance of Team Manager Fabio Bordonali.
The Professional Continental team is set to become the Giro's formation of force. Savoldelli, winner of the 2002 and 2005 Giro, will likely be the super domestique to defending champion Di Luca. In addition, Alessandro Spezialetti will join the 31 year-old from Abruzzo in making the switch from ProTour team Liquigas to LPR.
It's yet to be seen whether Bordonali will sign up Savoldelli's right-hand man Eddy Mazzoleni, who finished third in the 2007 Giro, but soon after cancelled his contract with Astana. The Bergamasco duo put Di Luca under a tremendous amount of pressure in this year's Corsa Rosa thanks to 'Il Falco's' daredevil descents and Mazzoleni's pure-bread muscle.
"I am very content to have come to this agreement and I am also happy to work along side a team-mate like Paolo Savoldelli," Di Luca said on Tuesday, while confirming earlier rumours. "My objects are the Classics at the beginning of the season and the Giro d'Italia, if the invite arrives."
The team should be given strong consideration as a wildcard from the Giro's organiser, RCS Sport, but may have a harder time getting an invite to the Ardennes Classics that Di Luca has dominated in the past, including this year's win in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"I have known Bordonali for years, we have already worked together in 2001, then for various reasons our paths diverted," added the rider. Bordonali, the ex-leader of Team Tenax, acquired the management of Team LPR from Davide Boifava. Even if the team does not have invites to the biggest races because it is a UCI second tier team, it is likely to be the third most important Italian outfit after Liquigas and Lampre-Fondital.
Di Luca's three-month suspension related to the Oil for Drugs affair ends on January 16, and will not cause any problems in fulfilling his contract with LPR.
"We are very happy to have in our team two champions like Savoldelli and Di Luca," confirmed Alberto Arici, co-owner of LPR with brother Stefano and his dad, Luciano. "We cannot wait to see them in action on all of the streets of Europe, and perhaps the Giro d'Italia."
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