Riccardo Riccò (Vacansoleil) has announced that he will be coached by Aldo Sassi and avail of the testing facilities at the Mapei training centre in Castellanza. Sassi, who recently claimed that he could guarantee that the riders he coaches are not doped, had made no secret of his desire to work with the controversial Riccò.
Riccò met with Sassi in Castellanza on Thursday in order to discuss their collaboration. The Italian rider will undergo his first tests at the Mapei centre in early November, before beginning his winter training in earnest under the stewardship of Sassi, who also coaches Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans.
Riccò’s press release explained that he was encouraged to meet with Sassi after reading an interview the latter gave to La Gazzetta dello Sport at the world championships in Australia. Sassi spoke of his willingness to train Riccò, in spite of his tarnished image. Riccò tested positive for CERA at the 2008 Tour de France and was suspended until March of this year.
“I know that with [Riccò] I would risk my reputation but sometimes you have to step up for an important objective,” Sassi said in Geelong. “If somebody doesn’t do it and doesn’t believe in this sport, how can things change?”
Sassi is already the personal trainer to seven riders: Basso, Evans, Dario Cioni (Sky), Cameron Wurf (Androni), Kjell Carlström (Sky), Charlie Wegelius (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Eros Capecchi (Footon-Servetto). He played an active role in Ivan Basso’s attempts to gain credibility by agreeing coach the rider at the Mapei centre as he began his comeback from suspension for his involvement in Operacion Puerto. The Lampre and Katusha teams also use the Mapei centre for testing.
Sassi is currently fighting cancer, and according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he finished Thursday’s meeting with Riccò by telling him, “I have a life expectancy that goes as far as July, you’re my last gamble.”
The announcement of Riccò’s collaboration with Sassi comes on the day that the route of the 2011 Giro d’Italia is unveiled in Turin. Riccò’s Vacansoleil team was not invited to last week’s Tour of Lombardy, run by Giro organisers RCS, while his erstwhile Ceramica Flaminia team failed to secure an invitation to the 2010 Giro.
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.