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Giro d'Italia

Gianni Savio and his Drone Hoppers hunt for the least-known classifications at the Giro d’Italia

‘Kilometers in Fuga’ and ‘Traguardo Volante’ competitions give Drone Hopper opportunities for prizes in a peloton with far deeper purse-strings.

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ROMA, Italy (VN) – Gianni Savio knows his way around the Giro d’Italia better than most.

With decades of experience in the bunch, the Drone Hopper Androni Giocattoli boss maximizes his tiny budget by hunting the Giro’s offbeat prizes with his eight breakaway-bothering Drones.

“We have three objectives in this Giro. The first is to win one stage. But to do that we must attack not at the finish, but in the beginning, so we must be in the breakaway.

“The other objective is the podium in Verona in the special classification for kilometers in the breakaway. And the other is the podium for the special classification in sprints,” elegantly coiffed septuagenarian Savio told VeloNews this week.

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The sight of Savio’s Drones humming away at the very front of the race has been as constant a theme of this Giro as the maglia rosa and the cheering tifosi.

“At the moment we have Mattia Bais first for kilometers in the breakaway. And we have Filippo Tagliani first in sprints. So for us, it’s good. And we had Natnael Tesfatsion in the top-10 earlier, and this is for us a very good result,” Savio said. “But the Giro is long.”

Bais and Tagliani scored a full 180km of sponsor exposure as the two-up break of the race’s first stage and haven’t let off since.

One or both of the wiley Italians made the moves all through the Giro’s first week before passing the baton to Natnael Tesfatsion and Eduardo Sepúlveda on the roads to Blockhaus on Sunday.

As of stage 9, Bais and Tagliani have a one-two stranglehold on the Kilometers in Fuga breakaway competition. Tagliani also enjoys a comfortable lead in the Traguardo Volante intermediate sprint prize.

‘For us to win prizes, we must get in the breakaways. It’s the only way for us’

Tagliani and Bais plying their trade in the Giro’s opening stage.

The “intermediate sprint” and “kilometers in the break” classifications sit in the shadows of the race for the pink, ciclamino, azzurra and white jerseys. Competitions for combativity, fair play and best team competitions take similar spots in the shade.

They’re barely mentioned in race literature. There’s no big money prizes or leaders jerseys for grabs.

The winners of the Giro’s minnow leagues receive fractions of the €250,000+ awarded to the maglia rosa. Pocket-money-size primes are also available by the day.

But for Savio and his long-running Italian outfit, a contribution to the coffers and a trophy for the collection gives the team something to fight for and sponsors something to smile about.

“For us to win these prizes, we must get in the breakaways. It’s the only way for us. But getting in the breakaway is not so easy any more,” Savio said.

“We are a  pro team and here we have 18 WorldTour teams with the best teams. And we have a budget of three million. The minimum for one WorldTour team is 15 million, but 20-30-40-50 million is also possible. And the difference with that is the riders. So my characteristic to compete is to discover new talents.”

Riders of the caliber of Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa have been through Savio’s talent scouting system before they were scooped into the big leagues.

And just like Savio urged patience from Colombian fans as Bernal rehabs his horror injuries, the Italian old-timer brings a human touch to his management style.

“Every morning in the meeting I explain to the riders that they must go in the breakaway because only with a breakaway can we win a stage or get some points [in the sprints prize],” he said.

“But I don’t get angry if they try to get in the attacks and can’t. I understand that it cannot be possible to be in breakaway every day – they must save energy.”

Expect to see Savio’s Hoppers in the breakaways throughout the Giro’s transitional second week. But don’t be too surprised if they’re not there either.