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Giro d'Italia

Giro Notebook S6: Androni manager Savio gets his win, continues string of success on a budget

Giro Notebook S6: Androni manager Gianni Savio gets his win, with Rubiano's stage 6 victory today; continues string of success on a budget

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Just days after Roberto Ferrari was giving Androni-Giocattoli bad press for his horrendous sprint crash in stage 3, the team was earning some positive ink for team boss Gianni Savio.

Savio is one of cycling’s most charismatic team managers, and he delivered the goods yet again in Friday’s hilly sixth stage with Miguel Rubiano Chavez taking the stage victory out of an all-day breakaway effort.

Savio seems to always manage to cobble together a competitive Giro squad on a shoestring budget that probably wouldn’t cover the salaries of some of the Giro’s top GC stars alone.

“Our budget is one-quarter of the biggest teams, but we always manage to win races,” Savio said with pride. “We always try to create a good ambiance with our riders and liven up the race. We want to be protagonists.”

Known as “The Prince,” the dapper, silver-haired Savio has been knocking around the sport for nearly three decades and is a familiar face known for his quick smile and his trademark Italian suits.

Savio mines the Latin American market to pick up young up-and-comers as well as offering a lifeline to riders coming off bans. Both ends of the market fit in well with Savio’s limited budget.

His prized protégé, José Rujano, has won the King of the Mountains, a stage to Sestriere, and finished third in 2005 in previous editions of the Giro.

He also recently signed a deal with Franco Pellizotti, who is coming off a racing ban for irregular numbers in his biological passport. Pellizotti is not riding the Giro and will make his debut with the team later this season.

Other riders with dubious pasts whom he’s signed include Angel Vicioso, linked to Operación Puerto; Michele Scarponi, who admitted his role in Puerto; Davide Rebellin, who tested positive for CERA during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games; and Danilo Hondo, who was banned for testing positive for a stimulant.

Savio, who pens a popular column in ProCycling, defended his choice of riders.

“People criticize me for signing some riders, but when they start winning again, like Scarponi, they come knocking down the door to offer them contracts,” he says.

Many pundits joke at the numerous sponsors crammed onto Savio’s team jerseys, but his meager budget always delivers big-money results.

Friday’s stage win is just the beginning of bigger things for this Giro, Savio says.

“Rujano is stronger than he was last year,” Savio said, referring to Rujano’s two stage-winning performance of 2011. “Our goal is to keep him out of harm’s way until the final week, then we will see what happens. You never know with a rider like Rujano.”

And with Savio, you can always bet he will be milking it for all the publicity he can garner for his sponsors.

The jersey
Stage-winner: Miguel Rubiano Chavez (Androni-Giocattoli) takes first breakaway win of 2012 Giro
Pink leader: Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD), ended the two-day run by Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda), who lost more than 15 minutes
Red points: Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) defended points jersey
Blue mountains: Rubiano Chavez ended run by Alfredo Balloni (Farnese Vini), who held KoM jersey since stage 2
White young rider: Malori also displaced Navardauskas

Weather: Continued warm
Warm, spring-like weather continues, with highs in the upper 70s and NW winds at about 10mph. Cooler at the final summit at 1400 meters.

Tomorrow’s stage: First summit finish
The 95th Giro d’Italia continues Saturday with the first major test for the GC contenders during this year’s corsa rosa. The 205km stage features two rated climbs, but is hilly throughout its run from Recanati to Rocca di Cambio. A series of unrated climbs in the middle part of the course leads to the Cat 3 Colle Galluccio, which should see the day’s main breakaway formed by then.

The undulating terrain passes through the Abruzzo region toward l’Aquila, site of a devastating earthquake in 2009. That city played host to the long breakaway effort in 2010 that saw riders such as David Arroyo take more than 13 minutes on the chasing GC favorites.

After passing through the city, the stage hits the second-category climb to the finish line in the Giro’s first summit finish. The climb isn’t terribly difficult (19km at 3.9 percent), but it should reveal who is on form to challenge for the pink jersey over the next two weeks.

The summit tops out with 3.5km to go, followed by a short descent to one final punchy climb with about 1.7km to go. There’s a short wall of 10 percent at 700 meters out, ideal for riders such as Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD).