Once again this year, the Saunier Duval U23 team will be hitting the road in order to train its youngsters, with the hopes of adding them to the professional team in the future. This will be the 13th straight season that the Cantabria-based team will work with some of the best amateur riders in Spain. Coached by former pro Enrique Aja, 17 riders will make a group where they'll start shaping their future careers as professionals.
Results show that Saunier Duval's work in this field has borne fruit. Over the years, 60 of Saunier Duval's amateur riders went on to become professionals. Nine of them signed up with Saunier Duval itself, while the rest entered other professional rosters. Saunier Duval's 2008 amateur squad includes Ran Margaliot (Israel) and former junior rider Adrián Sart (Valencia), as well as Óscar Abad, José María Alcaraz, Víctor Cabedo, José Luis Cano, Toni García, Rubén García, Mario Gutiérrez, José Manuel Gutiérrez, Gonzalo Hevia, Alberto Ibáñez, Ángel Madrazo, Floren Márquez, Lluis Guillermo Mas, Sebas Padilla and Vicent Rodrigo.
In addition to the reserve team in Spain, Saunier Duval-Scott has created a network of amateur teams throughout Europe, thus keeping a close eye on the strongest young guns in the non-pro peloton. An agreement has been signed with Team G.S. Brunero-Vallauris, whereby the French-Italian team will carry "Saunier Duval" in its designation. G.S. Brunero-Vallauris is a powerful group made up of 12 cyclists from different countries (France, Italy, Spain, Ukraine). They include Spanish twins Pedro and Jesús Merino, with the latter winning the Trofeo Industriales, in Toledo, last Sunday; additionally, Italian former pro Miculà De Matteis (who also had a victory last week), and Frenchman Etienne Pieret, a junior world champion in 2006. The squad's 2008 calendar includes a careful choice of events, including the UCI U23 Nations Cup (former World Cup) and several races alongside pro teams.
In Switzerland, the Atlas-Römer's Hausbäckerei continental team will again be wearing the same colours as the red birds, while in Italy, cooperation agreements have been signed with Team C.S. Spercenigo and Team Grassi-Scott, coached by a former man in the yellow squad, Andrea Tafi.
The following riders passed directly from the amateur to the professional Saunier Duval team: David De la Fuente (in 2003), Juan Jose Cobo Acebo, Francisco José Ventoso and "Litu" Gómez (2004), Javier Megías Leal, Arkaitz Durán Aroca and Alberto Fernández (2005), Raúl Alarcón (2006) and Héctor González (2007).
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