UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling has boosted its European pedigree with the signing of former Milram director sportif Vittorio Algeri to head the program’s operations on the continent. Thierry Attias, president of Momentum Sports Group, which owns the team, confirmed the hiring to VeloNews Tuesday night.
“He’s smart. He’s been around. He knows how to move around Europe. He’s well liked and well respected by the athletes,” said Attias. “I think he’s a huge asset to the team.”
Algeri, a Giro d’Italia stage winner and Olympian, joins the Pro-Continental squad from his post at defunct ProTour squad Milram. The 58-year-old led that team through multiple grand tours and on Tuesday was en route to represent UHC at the Vuelta a Espana route presentation.
Team manager Mike Tamayo pointed to the importance of Algeri’s leadership as UHC makes in-roads into Europe this spring.
“Our team owners at Momentum Sports Group have done an outstanding job putting us in a position to build on MSG’s eight years of successful programs by signing some of cycling’s top riders and assembling an A-list staff. With our expanded international race calendar this year, leadership will become even more critical to our future success,” said Tamayo. “In this regard, we are confident that Vittorio and Eric (Greene) are the right individuals to guide our racing efforts both at home in the U.S. and internationally.”
At UHC, Algeri will team up with Eric Greene, who VeloNews reported in November would take over as the squad’s U.S. director.
A shopping trip
Attias and Tamayo were shopping the Milram service course for vehicles in late 2010 when Algeri’s name came up.
“We had met and talked with a number of directors that weren’t a great fit for us,” Attias told VeloNews. “They said, ‘How about Vittorio? Take a look at these charts and the organizational stuff that he’s done.’ He’s super organized, with Excel spreadsheets pouring out of his briefcase as he walks. He’s thinking two moves ahead, not just the immediate needs to direct the team, and he’s taken ownership of the project.”’
Among those going to bat for Algeri were new recruits Charles Wegelius and Robert Forster, the latter of whom rode for Algeri at Milram. “The feedback was unanimously positive,” said Attias.
Algeri oversaw high points for the German team, including Dauphiné Libéré and Vuelta stage wins, but was also with the team for Alessandro Pettachi’s five 2007 Giro stage wins, which were later relegated due to a doping infraction. The former Italian elite road champion was also there for the unraveling of the team over the second half of 2010.
Attias said that integrity was a key consideration in hiring Algeri. “We wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page,” he told VeloNews. “His integrity wasn’t a concern after we had a chance to talk to him, get an idea about what his ethos was for sport and cycling and how he approached it. It was not a concern for us.”
Another factor was Algeri’s decades of experience in the European peloton and relationships with event organizers. According to Attias, his new director has been key in earning a number of the team’s early season invites. Prior to his work for Milram, Algeri sat behind the wheel for teams including Saunier Duval (2004-05) and Polti (1994-2000).
“We were looking for someone that was well respected, had excellent organizational skills, had the respect of the athletes and would work well in our organization – somebody that could help us navigate Europe and help us understand some of the subtleties that we hadn’t been exposed to yet,” said Attias. “He just fit the bill perfectly.”