Paolo Bettini was spotted talking to several riders at the start of stage six of Tirreno-Adriatico and confirmed he is working hard on building Fernando Alonso's team for a debut in the WorldTour in 2015.
Before the peloton rolled out of Bucchianico, Bettini talk intensely to Peter Sagan for several minutes. He also crossed paths with Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and stage 2 winner Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling).
"I'm working but I'm also saying hello to lots of friends," Bettini said with wry smile when confronted by journalists present at the race.
The former two-time world champion is expected to be the technical manager of the new team, with Alonso's agent Luis Garcia Abad acting as the team manager and licence holder. Rumours have suggested that the team will have a sponsor from the Middle East and rapidly become one of the biggest teams in the peloton.
"We're busy working because January 1st is getting close. We're working on what is a great project. I'm discovering more about it every day," Bettini said.
"We're working to build a great team and we'll see the results at the end of 2015. We're convinced you can win big races with new riders.
"I can't say much more. It'll be Fernando who'll do the talking. I've got to focus on getting the work done. He'll give more details when it’s the right moment."
Bettini hinted that the right moment could come later this week.
"I think there'll be an announcement soon. It's a matter of a few days," he said.
"They've got to finalise a few details. But I think everything will be revealed before the big Classics."
Big name riders under target
Bettini is using his experience and friendship with riders in the peloton to convince some of the sport's biggest names to join the Alonso team.
Several weeks ago Bettini played down the chances of Sagan joining Alonso's team the due to his agent Giovanni Lombardi allegedly asking for more than four million Euro a season. However, Bettini still seems keen to persuade Sagan to leave Cannondale at the end of the season.
"When a rider's contract is up, it's normal that they get offers and then they make a decision about their future," Bettini said.
"I don’t think Sagan has signed a contract with anyone so far, so he's free to make his own decision. It's true that his request is high but that's because he deserves. We'll see happens…"
Several other riders have been linked to the Alonso team and Bettini had different reactions to each name put to him.
Could Boasson Hagen be a target?
"He's an interesting rider, I'd like to work with him," Bettini said.
"Purito has a contract…."
What about Rinaldo Nocentini as a possible road captain? You and him are close after being in the Italian national squad together.
"I think Rinaldo's contract ends this year. We'll see….," Bettini said, no doubt having much longer list of names hidden in the back of his mind.
To secure a place in the 2015 WorldTour, Bettini knows he will have build a cohesive team and sign five riders who have enough UCI ranking points to secure the team amongst the top 18 teams in the sport.
"I'm focused on building the team. For now it doesn’t exist, we've got to create it from scratch, so that we go to the UCI WorldTour commission in November and present a solid project," he explained.
"As far I understand, the rules say the current top 16 teams have an automatic right to remain in the WorldTour. There's a chance for two other teams to join the WorldTour if they have the points to earn a place based on the points of five riders. We want to be one of them."
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