New Luxembourg squad signs Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati

Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati has signed a two-year deal with the Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project, the as-of-yet-unnamed team built around brothers Andy and Frank Schleck.

The new Luxembourg-backed cycling team wants to be more than just a vehicle for national riders Andy and Frank Schleck.

The yet unnamed team revealed four new riders to its 25-man roster for next year, including Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati, who will give the team some heft in the bunch sprints and spring classics.

“Bennati is such a classy rider and we are very happy to have him,” general manager Brian Nygaard said in a team release Wednesday. “He is really passionate about our project and I’m sure he’ll be a significant addition to our line-up. He has won many impressive victories, but I actually don’t think we have seen his best yet. I see him flourishing in the right environment and I believe we can provide that for him.”

Bennati looked poised to emerge as the best Italian sprinter of his generation, with promising victories in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, but a hard crash in the 2008 Giro has seen his career suffer.

He’s hoping a move to the new team will help him recover his winning kick in the bunch sprints as well as provide some opportunities in the spring classics.

“My objectives for the coming season are to get off to a good start from the first and try to make the most of Tirreno-Adriatico in order to be supremely prepared for the Milan San Remo,” Bennati said. “The team will be aiming to do well in the classics and grand tours. I want to help the team gain success.”

Joining Bennati are compatriots Davide Viganò and first-year pro Giacomo Nizzolo, as well as Portugese Bruno Pires.

Viganò has a strong finishing kick and will likely slot into the role of leading out Bennati. Nizzolo is being hailed a future major Italian sprinter while Pires, a former Portuguese national champion, will bring some added firepower in the mountains.

The announcements come as the Luxembourg team is starting to take shape. Nygaard told VeloNews that the team will have 25 riders and expects to have a team to be a force in both the classics and grand tours.

Several riders from Saxo Bank are expected to follow the Schlecks to the new project, but Nygaard refused to confirm the full roster until everything is buttoned up with contracts and commitments for the coming season.