By Andrew Hood
Cipo’ in South Africa, Liquigas gets going
Italy’s latest super-team is putting the finishing touches on its preparations for the 2005 season.
Liquigas will have its official unveiling later this month and the team is revving up for its final training camps ahead of its first races of the season. Most of the team will be honing their strength at a training camp starting this weekend in Donoratico in Italy while 2002 world champion Mario Cipollini continues with his personal training program in South Africa.
The team’s official presentation will be in Milan on January 25 before Cipollini, along with teammates Magnus Backstedt, Dario Andriotto, Nicola Loda, Marco Milesi, Marcus Ljungqvist, Gianluca Sironi and Marco Zanotti, will travel to the Tour of Qatar (January 31 to February 4).
Meanwhile, Dario Cioni, Danilo Di Luca, Devis Miorin and Charles Wegelius will fly to Toluca, Mexico, to train at altitude. The remainder of the team will travel to Cecina for another 10-day training camp ahead of the GP Costa degli Etruschi on February 6.
Valverde to make Tour run
Spanish sensation Alejandro Valverde will make his Tour de France debut this year, likely skipping the Vuelta a España to prepare exclusively for the French race.
Valverde, currently in Mallorca with his Illes Balears teammates on a pre-season training camp, is also set to tackle the spring classics with goals of shining in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Amstel Gold Race.
Valverde, a winner of 15 races in 2004, will make his season debut at the Trofeo Mallorca next month then race in the Luis Puig, the Tour of Valencia, Paris-Nice and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco before heading for the second half of the spring classics. Then he’ll take a short break and race the Tour of Cataluyna in June as his final warm-up for the Tour.
Peron: ‘Basso can win Tour’
Team CSC veteran Andrea Peron believes Ivan Basso can win the Tour de France. The 33-year-old Italian said his teammate, who won a stage and finished third overall last season, has what it takes to make a run at the overall title.
“He’s intelligent, calm and very gracious,” Peron said of Basso in an interview in La Gazzetta dello Sport. “He’s determined, meticulous and a professional 200 percent.”
Peron will be alongside Basso this season as the young Italian makes a run at not only the Tour, but the Giro d’Italia as well. Basso and Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis have decided Basso has what it takes to race two grand tours in one season.
“(Ivan) believes in the sacrifice and the work. He’s always talking about his adversaries, the tactics,” Peron continued. On the inevitable comparison between Basso and Italy’s other rising star, Damiano Cunego, Peron said: “I believe it’s harder to finish third in the Tour than to win the Giro.”
Lampre-Caffita snag Figueras
Lampre-Caffita – the result of the merger of Lampre and Saeco – has signed a deal to bring Giuliano Figueras onto the team for the 2005 season.
Figueras raced a rather dubious season with Saeco in 2003, but had a stronger season last year with Panaria. A winner of the Giro dell`Appennino in 2002, Figueras said he’s looking forward to tackling the ProTour with his new outfit.
“I’m happy to be on this team, one of the best in cycling today, and to be able to race the best events in the ProTour,” he said.