After a few lean years marked by doping scandals and sponsorship problems, Mauro Gianetti is back in the high life again thanks to the multi-million-euro lifeline offered by Italian shoemaker Geox.
Gianetti, 46, says the deeper pockets will assure that the team is back at the top levels of the sport, but without the doping scandals that came with Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli that nearly derailed the program in the wake of the 2007 Tour de France.
“We have an important sponsor that believes in this project. We will be a strong team, with strong ethics with a balance between veterans and youth for the coming season,” Gianetti told VeloNews. “We have strong leaders with Sastre and Menchov and we also have some promising riders that will be able to have their chances. I am excited about next season.”
Gianetti’s team was on the ropes following the Ricco-Piepoli scandals during the 2008, when the Italian pair both tested positive for CERA. Ricco was hauled away by police and the rest of the team soon abandoned, marking a humiliating low-water mark for the team.
Rather than fold, the team scraped by with minor sponsors to keep the squad afloat. The team raced as Scott-American Beef before morphing into Footon-Servetto this season, winning just seven races but scoring more than 25 top-3s.
“We can expect to play a bigger role next season,” Gianetti continued. “We will have two big leaders, with Denis and Carlos. We also have some very good young riders. I know we can bring a team that will be competitive throughout the season.”
About a dozen riders are staying over from this year’s team while departing riders include Manuel Cardoso (to RadioShack) and Eros Capecchi (to Liquigas-Cannondale).
In addition to the high-profile names of Sastre and Menchov, other arrivals for 2011 include David de la Fuente, who rode for Gianetti before switching to Astana and winning the Tour de France in support of Alberto Contador this year. Others include Mauricio Ardila, David Blanco, former U-23 world champion Fabio Duarte, Danielle Ratto and Marcel Wyss. There are rumors of Danilo Di Luca getting a spot back with the team, but Gianetti would not confirm those reports.
Gianetti also downplayed suggestions that Sastre and Menchov will butt heads over leadership for the team’s GC captain in the grand tours.
“It’s not common to have such big leaders, but we have such a good feeling between the two guys. That’s the most important thing,” Gianetti explained. “We’ll see how the schedule fills out, but for sure they will both race the Tour.”
Menchov is expected to skip the mountainous Giro d’Italia to focus on the Tour, where he finished a career-best third in 2010, while Sastre will search for an elusive Giro podium to round out his Vuelta podiums and his Tour win in 2008. Sastre is pencilling in a run at all three grand tours again for 2011, while Menchov will likely race just the Tour and Vuelta.
“They’re both experienced, intelligent guys,” he continued. “We have the climbs for Carlos while the other one is more steady, a waiting type of rider, who can be there every day, that’s Denis. We can be strong in the mountains and the time trials. We will bring a solid team. It will be a good combination for the team.”