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Thieves rob Italian teams of $800,000 in equipment

Cannondale is working with Italian police to investigate the Tuesday robbery of its service course

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MILAN (VN) — Italy’s top teams, Cannondale and Lampre-Merida, are beginning the 2014 season short on equipment. Thieves stole bikes this winter from the teams’ service quarters, Cannondale being the latest victim, Tuesday night in northeast Italy.

Thieves stole €100,000 ($136,000) of equipment from Cannondale’s base in Sesto al Reghena. The loot included frames and bicycles belonging to team stars Peter Sagan and Ivan Basso.

“It’s true,” Cannondale press officer Paolo Barbieri told VeloNews. “Luckily, we have insurance for these types of things.”

Sagan spent his first professional years living near the team’s base. General manager Roberto Amadio’s home sits four kilometers away in Veneto, just over the border from the base in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.

In Lombardy, near Milan, thieves hit Lampre in late 2013. On Nov. 24, between two and four in the morning, they climbed through a window, opened the gates, and made off with €500,000 ($684,000) of equipment.

“They came in when we had all of the 2013 bikes ready to give back to Merida and when we had all the 2014 bikes ready to take to our first training camp,” Lampre manager Brent Copeland told VeloNews. “They found themselves with a huge Christmas present. That’s why we think they stole one of our trucks, because they didn’t think they’d find so many bikes.”

Thieves took Lampre’s small truck, which police officers found later near Varese, and one of the team cars, which they found in Milan with all its windows broken. From what Merida tells Copeland, the equipment made its way to Ukraine and Russia.

Cannondale’s staff is working with Carabinieri police today to piece together what happened. Thankfully, the team had insured its service headquarters. It also has backing from sponsor Cannondale, a long-time American bike manufacturer.

Copeland said that Cannondale might have been luckier because the season is already underway and its team has its equipment spread around the world at various races in Qatar and Australia.

“These thieves are organized, the ones that hit Selle San Marco, Cannondale, and bike shops recently,” Copeland added. “They knew what they were doing, they left all the aluminium bars and seat posts, but took all the carbon ones. They left all the Fulcrum aluminium wheels and took the carbon sets, the ones with the pink color that they don’t sell to the public. They stole the mechanics’ tools, which included some of the tools the guys had custom made.”

In Lampre’s case, the loot included 115 bikes and 180 pairs of wheels. Taiwanese bike manufacturer Merida luckily had stock frames that it could supply and with its connections at home, it helped the team immediately receive 50 Shimano groupsets.

The mechanics spent two weeks building new bikes. They first supplied riders heading to Argentina and Australia to start the racing season. Those riders went with two bikes each and the other riders received one bike. When the team is going at full speed, which Lampre should reach next month, each rider has four road bikes and two or three time trial bikes.

Copeland, who managed Ben Spies in Moto GP, said that thieves like cycling. Without the paperwork that accompanies cars and motorbikes, racing bikes make good targets because they sell faster.

Merida spotted some items online, including on eBay, but Copeland said it gave up hope on recovering items. Cannondale, with its team starting in the Tour of Oman next week, continues working with police today to catch the bike thieves.

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