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Team Barloworld committed to its core

Team Barloworld at the Giro

Team Barloworld at the Giro (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Team Barloworld will continue in 2009 with a roster similar to this year's. The team is adding just one new rider, Italian Michele Merlo. The team sees the departure of Enrico Gasparotto, who left to join Lampre, sprinter Baden Cooke (Rock Racing), and Christian Pfannberger (Katushya), as well as Moises Dueñas, who tested positive for EPO during the Tour de France and has been suspended.

The team nearly lost Barloworld as a sponsor after its Tour de France doping incident, but manager Claudio Corti convinced the South African company to stay on until they could find a replacement. Corti will use the coming year to focus on developing the young talent on the team.

"In the last two years we've achieved excellent results that could have justified us continuing the same strategy but we feel it's the right moment to make a change in direction," Corti said. "Knowing we have extremely talented young riders in the team, we've decided to give them a chance to show what they can do. In the past we've proved we can help riders rebuild their careers, but now we're going to focus our development skills and management experience to help our young riders emerge and be successful."

The British-registered team will again ride Bianchi bikes, with 16 riders in the 2009 line-up. The 24-year-old Merlo, a sprinter, will join the likes of John Lee Augustyn, Chris Froome, Daryl Impey and Geraint Thomas.

After his gold medal on the British team pursuit team at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Corti has high hopes for Thomas. "He will now focus on the road and we're convinced he can do well. He's an excellent team player and of a course a very good time trialist."

Veterans Mauricio Soler and Robert Hunter will remain as the experienced team captains. Soler had an unfortunate 2008 season, with most of it affected by crashes. Working on his recovery, he is determined to prove himself as one of the best climbers in the world, building upon his 2007 results as the winner of the mountains jersey in the Tour de France.

Other riders remaining with the team will be Stephen Cummings, Patrick Calcagni, Gianpaolo Cheula Francesco Bellotti, Felix Cardenas, Paolo Longo Borghini, Marco Corti, Diego Caccia and Carlo Scognamiglio, and Directeur Sportives Alberto Volpi and Valerio Tebaldi.

Riders will undergo medical check-ups in the second week of December. Their first training camp will be held the third weekend of January, and in the meantime, staff will plan racers' programmes.