YellowFluo-Neri Sottoli manager Luca Scinto has defended his team’s wildcard invitation to the 2014 Giro d’Italia, insisting that it is a different entity to the Vini Fantini-Selle Italia squad that had two positive tests for EPO at last year’s race.
Danilo Di Luca was expelled from the Giro during the final week after it emerged that he had returned a positive sample in an out-of-competition test days before the race began, while Mauro Santambrogio, a stage winner at Bardonecchia, also later tested positive for EPO.
The positive tests saw Vini Fantini withdraw from sponsoring Scinto’s team to set up a new Continental team under the management of former directeur sportif Stefano Giuliani, while it was late into the autumn before Scinto and general manager Angelo Citracca secured the survival of their team into 2014.
Against that backdrop, it seemed improbable that YellowFluo-Neri Sottoli would receive a wildcard invitation to the Giro, although it was rumoured that RCS Sport would look to safeguard the interests of Italian cycling with its invitations for 2014. On Thursday, YellowFluo was duly named as one of the wildcards along with Bardiani-CSF, Colombia and Coppa Italia winners Androni-Venezuela, while MTN-Qhubeka and IAM Cycling missed out.
“I’m very happy, I’m just very, very happy,” Scinto told Cyclingnews minutes after learning of his team’s invitation.
Asked if it was a surprise, considering their two positive tests at last year’s Giro, Scinto said: “I don’t want to talk about last year, where 40 people risked losing their jobs. This year is different. Fantini has started its own team and we are YellowFluo, an all-Italian team, one that pays all of its taxes in Italy. We’re a new team, we’re starting again from scratch.”
The Tuscan spent much of the last year’s Giro fending off questions about Santambrogio’s eyebrow-raising run of early-season form, and with that in mind, perhaps, he said that YellowFluo will publish its riders’ blood values on the team website in 2014.
“We’re going to publish all of our riders’ biological passport data on our team’s website. It’s something we’ve looked at to show that we don’t have anything to hide,” said Scinto. “I’m happy because we wanted to rebuild. This is a new team and we want to find important sponsors to grow the team.”
By way of reparation for the positive tests at last year’s Giro, the then-Vini Fantini squad returned its invitation to the Tour of Lombardy, but Scinto said he didn’t know if that gesture had helped his team’s chances for 2014. “That would be a question for Angelo Citracca rather than for Luca Scinto. Citracca’s the general manager, I’m the sports director, so I wouldn’t have a working relationship with RCS Sport in that sense,” he said.
From a purely sporting point of view, however, this season’s version of the team is perhaps the weakest since its inception in 2009, but Scinto maintained that it was still a roster worthy of a place at the Giro. “[Andrea] Dal Col is a good rider, a kind of Italian Greipel, and there’s [Francesco] Chicchi for the sprints too. We’ve got [Matteo] Rabottini, who had physical problems last year and wasn’t at his best for the Giro, and [Simone] Ponzi is a rider who we can bring back to a high level like Visconti.”
Scinto admitted that he had considered leaving cycling in the immediate aftermath of Di Luca and Santambrogio’s positive tests. In spite of the criticism his team faced after last year’s Giro, however, Scinto claimed that he had also been flooded with messages of support.
“I have 10,000 followers on Twitter and 13,000 on Facebook, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of private messages I’ve had,” Scinto said. “Everybody can say what they like about Scinto but they keep signing my best riders – they’ve taken Guardini, Visconti and Gatto away from me. If people are signing these riders, then it shows that I must be doing something right.”