Lampre-Farnese Vini team manager Giuseppe Saronni has revealed how he has rebuilt the Lampre team for 2011, bringing in the experienced Roberto Damiani as senior directeur sportif to try and get the best out of team leaders Damiano Cunego, Michele Scarponi and Alessandro Petacchi.
Saronni was the 1982 world champion during his own professional career and has been manager of the Italian squad since retiring at the end of 1990. He decided to make significant changes for 2011 after a doping investigation rocked the team this spring and a lack of results saw them slip down the UCI rankings.
Saronni has fought hard with the Omega Pharma-Lotto team to secure Damiani’s services and has signed Michele Scarponi as the team’s stage race leader, allowing Damiano Cunego to focus on the Classics and stage victories. Alessandro Petacchi will again target the sprints after winning the green jersey at the Tour de France.
The riders and staff have completed their first get together in Boario Terme, in northern Italy. They spent three days undergoing physiological testing by staff from the Mapei centre, tried new equipment and worked on race programmes for the rapidly approaching 2011 season.
“We’ve been speaking about making changes for a few years,” Saronni told Gazzetta dello Sport. “We started discussions with Ballerini before his tragic death. We were looking for a figurehead who could co-ordinate all the technical aspects of the team. Damiani will do that and refer directly to me.”
Damiani was under contract with Omega Pharma-Lotto and the Belgian team did not want to let him go. However Saronni is confident of resolving all the legal problems and Damiani was at the first Lampre meeting.
“Teams look for good directeur sportif like soccer teams look for good managers,” he said. “Roberto had a year of his contract and some clauses that even he didn’t know about, but the whole thing is almost over. We’ve just got to wait a few months before it is fully resolved.”
Damiani will be expected to get the best out of team leader’s Damiano Cunego, Michele Scarponi and Alessandro Petacchi. Saronni is convinced all three can do well in 2011.
“He (Cunego) raced too much last season and so it’s natural that he ended things early. I’m sure he’ll be back to his best and winning races. At the Giro only a really strong Cadel Evans stopped him winning on the dirt roads, while at the Tour he went close to winning two stages. It was a strange and unfortunate season for him,” Saronni said.
“We’ll let him decide his goals, while at the same time trying to help him. He wants to target the Classics but that doesn’t mean he won’t ride the Giro too if he goes well in the spring.”
Scarponi finished just off the podium in the Giro d’Italia this year but Saronni is convinced he and the team can do better next May.
“He lost a lot of time in the team time trial otherwise he could have had a chance against Basso. He’ll be up there for sure. And as an Italian team, we want to in the action at the Giro after years of missing out,” he said.
Alessandro Petacchi is still embroiled in an Italian police investigation that first emerged during the Tour de France. However, he has not formally been charged by police and Saronni is happy to stand by him.
“From what he tells us, there’s nothing new. So until there’s something to prove otherwise, we’ve still got faith in him,” Saronni said.
“His goals are Milan-San Remo, Ghent-Wevelgem and perhaps the Tour of Flanders. The big problem will be to programme his season keeping in mind that there are the world championships at the end of the season. It’s a chance he’ll never have again and (Paolo) Bettini is already considering him. Petacchi would like to ride the Giro but the Tour is important for us. But with his enthusiasm, his age is not problem.”
Saronni was criticised for signing Andrei Kaschechkin this summer, after the Kazakhstan rider completed his ban for blood doping. However he refused to admit it was a mistake and insisted that all the teams that sign riders coming back from doping bans should be treated in the same way.
“If we’re all agreed that certain riders don’t deserve a second chance, and I was one of those calling for that, then I’ll accept that idea. But until then I don’t see why other teams can take advantage and we can’t,” he said.