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Giro d'Italia

Giro Q&A: Peiper on his revitalized Davitamon-Lotto

After a bouncy ride through the spring classics, there is no hotter team in the ProTour than Davitamon-Lotto. Since the end of April the Belgian squad has grabbed three stage wins, plus the overall at Switzerland’s Tour de Romandie, and taken a pair of stage wins here at the 2006 Giro d’Italia. VeloNews caught up with directeur sportif Allan Peiper during Wednesday’s rest day at the Giro to find out what is driving the team’s turnaround. VeloNews: Fair to say Davitamon-Lotto has it going in the right direction? Allan Peiper: Yeah, we had a rough trot through the classics and couldn’t get

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By Jason Sumner, Special to VeloNews

Allan Peiper, pro turned director, says the team is back on track

Allan Peiper, pro turned director, says the team is back on track

Photo: Jason Sumner

After a bouncy ride through the spring classics, there is no hotter team in the ProTour than Davitamon-Lotto. Since the end of April the Belgian squad has grabbed three stage wins, plus the overall at Switzerland’s Tour de Romandie, and taken a pair of stage wins here at the 2006 Giro d’Italia. VeloNews caught up with directeur sportif Allan Peiper during Wednesday’s rest day at the Giro to find out what is driving the team’s turnaround.

VeloNews: Fair to say Davitamon-Lotto has it going in the right direction?

Allan Peiper: Yeah, we had a rough trot through the classics and couldn’t get things right. Robbie [McEwen] broke his rib and got bronchitis, nothing was going right. But then his first race back after a month was at Romandie and he scored. That put the team back on track. Then [Chris] Horner wins a stage, [Cadel] Evans wins the TT and the overall. Then we come to the Giro and McEwen wins two more stages. How does it happen? I don’t know. There’s no formula for it, but no one is complaining.

VN: It has to help to get that first win.

AP: For sure. Robbie is sort of a quick fix. You can have a [Damiano] Cunego or a [Ivan] Basso or a [Gilberto] Simoni on the team, and you can work for them for 21 days and it might not happen. But when you’ve got a sprinter like Rob, you’ve got a quick fix. It’s like having a caffeine shot. If they score you’re back up in the clouds again and that goes for the whole team.

VN: How important was it to get the two Giro stage wins in Belgium where the team’s two biggest sponsors are?

AP: I can’t tell you how big it was. The boss of Davitamon was there on Sunday when Rob won his first stage. Then the boss of the national lottery was in the car [on Tuesday] when he won his second one. We had other sponsors in the second car, too. It couldn’t have been much better.

VN: So what’s left for the team to achieve at this year’s Giro?

AP: It’s funny, the owner of the team actually said the night before the race started that he didn’t think it was going to be a very successful Giro. He said that if we can pull off one stage that will be enough. But after Tuesday he was like, ’Maybe we can get four or five.’ We’ve also got Wim Van Huffel. I think he could do a good ride and maybe win a mountain stage. That would show the balance in the team.

VN: Your team doesn’t exactly have an open checkbook, either, does it?

AP: Well, as rumors go T-Mobile has 15 million euros and we are between 6 and 7 (million). That’s a big difference. If you are looking at Quick Step, they’ve got a budget that’s about 9 million. That’s 2 million more, so you are talking about buying [Paolo] Bettini and [Tom] Boonen for that price. That can be the difference between success and failure. If you’ve got a limited budget, you’ve got to know what you are doing. Maybe our classics team is not as strong as it could be, because we’ve stayed with some older riders. We’ve got five, six guys that are 35 years old, and the younger guys are not capable of winning yet. But For a team with a small budget, one of the smallest in the ProTour, I think we can score in a lot of different places. I mean, we were fourth overall in the ProTour team standings last year with a budget that’s way less than a lot of the teams behind us.

VN: What about Evans? People are starting to talk Tour de France podium.

AP: If someone had said that to me during the winter I would have said, ‘You’re loony.’ But he’s clearly a more complete rider this year. I have heard people in the last two weeks … even managers and directors from other teams … say they think Evans could win the Tour.

VN: Any chance McEwen is going to stick around to the end of the Giro?

AP: In the euphoric moment [Tuesday] night he was toying with the idea because he’s got the points jersey, and it’s a great-looking jersey, and he’s riding so well. Friday could be another stage win. So he says, “Then there’s another after that. Then another, and then it’s only six days to the finish and I could win in Milan.” But — I don’t think so. Rob knows what he has to do and the major priority is the Tour de France and he needs to do half of the Tour of Switzerland to get there. If he goes to Milan he’d have to miss Switzerland. And they say once you have a formula for success, you don’t go away from it.