At the start of stage two of this year's Giro d'Italia, there was a relaxed atmosphere surrounding the Footon-Servetto team. The reason? "I can promise that we'll attack every day of this race," explained directeur sportif Josean Matxin Fernandez.
The plan didn't exactly work out as none of the Footon-Servetto riders made the early break of Mauro Facci (Quick Step), Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF), Paul Voss (Milram) and Rick Flens (Rabobank) but the intention remains the same for the three weeks of racing.
"We have a team of attackers who make the race organisers happy; we aren't here to block the race or to stay quiet," added Matxin, which is ironic, given that Footon-Servetto still struggles at times to receive race invitations despite its ProTour status. "From the 22 teams of the Giro, only five or six can be sure of a [stage] win. All the others have to take the initiative."
The Footon-Servetto team has won two races this year, both in January (a stage of the Tour de San Luis courtesy of Rafael Valls and a stage at the Santos Tour Down Under by Manuel Cardoso), but has been rebuilt with new riders. "It's our philosophy to work with young riders - we have the youngest team of the Pro Tour, we have a young team here at the Giro," continued Matxin.
The nine-man line up boasts an average age of 25.3 with the oldest 30-year-old Giampaolo Cheula and the youngest being 20-year-old Austrian Matthias Brändle.
Brändle is the Austrian time trial national champion. He finished a valuable 21st place in the Giro's opening time trial, his debut Grand Tour stage. "We don't have a top time trialist but we have Brändle who is very promising in that area," said Matxin.
"We don't have a top sprinter but we have Michele Merlo who is pretty fast. We don't have a top climber but we have Eros Capecchi who's got talent for climbing. We've got a bit of everything in our group of young guys."
Footon-Servetto also has Fabio Felline, who finished 10th at the GP E3 and fifth in stage one of the Tour de Romandie at the age of only 20. He's been touted as a huge talent in Italy but team manager Mauro Gianetti opted to save him up for the Tour de France, with the expectation that he'll start his first Grand Tour in July in Rotterdam rather than Amsterdam in May.
The team has a track record of blooding young talent on the big stage. Four years ago, Saunier-Duval - the predecessor of Footon-Servetto - also chose to hand its Italian super talent youngster Riccardo Ricco some experience at the Tour de France (he finished 98th in 2006) before passing him the responsibility of general classification leadership at the Giro d'Italia (where he secured sixth in 2007 and second in 2008).
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