MILAN (VN) — Top Italian squad Liquigas-Cannondale will become one of the great Italian-American mixes in 2013, similar to a plate of pasta carbonara. As announced in late August, Paolo Zani’s Brixia Sport will take over the management of the team when Liquigas exits as title sponsor, but there may be a new twist.
Cannondale appears set to become the new title sponsor in 2013, and may be taking on a 40-percent stake in Brixia Sport.
The other 60 percent will come from Zani, one of Lombardy’s wealthiest businessmen. He was the head of Liquigas Italia until a few years ago, when he retired and handed over the reins to Liquigas Sport president Paolo Del Lago. Zani maintained approximately a 30-percent stake in Liquigas Italia and was all ears early this year when Liquigas’ Dutch parent company SHV Holdings said it wanted out of the team.
Zani stepped in, created Brixia Sport, and saved nearly 65 families from the unemployment line. He will keep Italy’s biggest team going strong, and with what should be an increased American influence. Without Zani, Italy would have only Lampre-ISD, which is tangled in the Mantova doping investigation, in the sport’s first division.
“I’m still talking with many sponsors, but Zani guaranteed the team’s future,” team manager Roberto Amadio told VeloNews recently. “Soon, we’ll name the sponsors and the riders.”
Zani is a little like BMC Racing’s Andy Rihs, who has a lot of money and a big toy to play with. After Liquigas announces its good bye early next month, the door will be open for Cannondale to outline the new scope of its involvement. Officials for Cannondale, based in Connecticut and owned by Canadian company Dorel, were unavailable when reached for comment.
The team’s riders are also quiet. American Ted King, who lives in Lucca, Italy, and re-signed with the squad, told VeloNews only that he had signed with Brixia.
“That’s been published,” said King last week. “So Brixia is the kind of the management company of the team. So I guess there’s the answer. The title sponsor of the team is TBD.”
The team’s 2013 budget is expected to be similar to this year’s, but whatever sponsorship is lacking, Zani will cover. For now, he and Amadio are looking for a second sponsor and are contracting the final two riders to fill their 25 spots.
With Vincenzo Nibali, third in the Tour de France, leaving for Astana, Ivan Basso will be the central pillar. Amidst questions over the team’s future, a number of riders followed Nibali out the door, including set-up man Daniel Oss, top domestique Sylvester Szmyd, and U.S. road champ Timmy Duggan.
“Cycling changes; you have to keep your feet on the ground and think fast when riders leave. We can bank on other riders,” Basso told VeloNews. “In general, the crisis has made it hard to find new sponsors. Zani, with his power, guaranteed our future, though.”
Peter Sagan, winner of the green jersey and three stages at this year’s Tour, will be the team’s star. The 22-year-old is Cannondale’s man, connecting first through the mountain biking world as a U23. Elia Viviani, Moreno Moser and Damiano Caruso will continue to flank the Slovak champion with Oss’ departure.
The team renewed King, its only American, Stefano Agostini, Maciej Bodnar, Paolo Longo Borghini, Federico Canuti, Mauro Da Dalto, Kristjan Koren, Alan Marangoni, Maciej Paterski, Daniele Ratto, Fabio Sabatini, Juraj Sagan, Cristiano Salerno and José Sarmiento. New recruits so far include Cameron Wurf from Champion System and neo-pros Alessandro De Marchi and Matthias Krizek.
While King will likely play the role of sole American on the squad, the team will take on the title of its American bike sponsor. What is unclear at this point is just how much influence the American sponsor will have on what has traditionally been a very Italian squad. Zani has kept the kitchen lights on; now it is time to see what Cannondale and Amadio cook up.