Stefano Garzelli’s Acqua & Sapone team may have failed to land a wildcard invitation to the Giro d’Italia, but the veteran Italian might yet line up at the corsa rosa in May. According to a report in Wednesday’s Gazzetta dello Sport, Garzelli is on the verge of agreeing a switch to Saxo Bank, although his brother and agent has moved swiftly to downplay the rumour.
Gazzetta reports that Garzelli would continue to ride for Acqua & Sapone at Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo before completing a move to Bjarne Riis’ squad. Garzelli was initially set to retire after this year’s Giro, but has allegedly been offered a two-year deal by Saxo Bank.
While the switch would present Garzelli with the possibility of riding the Giro once again, his primary role at the team would be to provide much-needed support to Alberto Contador in the high mountains of the Tour de France, provided, of course, that the Spaniard is cleared to ride. The long-awaited Court of Arbitration for Sport verdict on Contador's positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France is expected at the end of January.
Contador is understood to have requested Garzelli’s signing last season, and has encouraged Riis’ overtures to the 2000 Giro winner, who has lived in Valencia for a number of years.
Garzelli’s brother and agent Marco, however, has denied knowledge of the rumoured mid-season switch. He admitted that Garzelli had been close to signing for Saxo Bank in August of last year, but that he had since committed himself fully to Acqua & Sapone.
“Stefano was on the point of going to Saxo Bank in August, when the two parties were really very close, but after a meeting with [team manager] Palmiro Masciarelli at the Giro di Padania, Stefano decided to commit again to the Acqua & Sapone project,” Marco Garzelli told Tuttobici.
“Since then, we haven’t heard anything, so I reckon that the news which appeared on Gazzetta today is simply old or at least unfounded. To us, and especially to me, it doesn’t seem like anything.”
Another stumbling block to any potential pre-Giro transfer is UCI regulation 2.15.120a, which states that the "transfer period for any change of team during the season extends from 1-15 August."
Gazzetta also reports that Bjarne Riis had looked to persuade Jakob Fuglsang to return to the fold during the winter as the merger between Leopard Trek and RadioShack came into effect. However, the Dane still has a year to run on his deal with the revamped RadioShack-Nissan outfit.