Giro d’Italia - Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni Team
Gianni Savio's team return to support Gilberto Simoni on his 'Quest' for another
Giro victory ...an interesting blend of South American promise and European
Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli
They’re back. After a one-year hiatus, the artists formerly known as Selle
Italia return to the Giro intent on proving a point. Overlooked last year, team
manager Gianni Savio has bolstered his squad over the winter, to ensure a start
in the corsa rosa. The team also returns with the longest name of any pro team
in the peloton, the team is often referred to as PVC Diquigiovanni or Serramenti
True to form, the team offers an interesting blend of South American promise
and European experience. However, the sightings of sponsor-laden white and blue
jerseys in the first breakaway of every stage may be a rarity this time around,
as Savio has a bona fide contender for overall honours in his ranks in the form
of Gilberto Simoni. Chaperoning the man from Palù di Giovo all the way to Milan
in what may be his final Giro will mean a slight change in philosophy for the
team, as Gabriele Missaglia explains, “We used to ride to get our face on TV.
Now we're riding to win the Giro”.
Gilberto Simoni and Gianni Savio at the team presentation.
Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti
Gilberto "Gibo" Simoni
Whether Gilberto Simoni still has the legs to take home the pink jersey
remains to be seen, but what is clear is that no other rider lines up in Palermo
with a comparable consistency of performance in the past decade of the race. In
every Giro since 1999, Simoni has been a protagonist, winning the race twice and
finishing on the podium a further five times. Even in the two years in which he
failed to make the podium (in 2002, when he was ejected from the race after
testing positive for cocaine and last year, when he finished 4th overall) he
still managed to win a stage. (Ed. note: All charges for cocaine were dropped
after the positive test was found to be caused by Peruvian candies with traces
of the drug Simoni got from a relative.)
There is no doubting that at 36, Simoni no longer possesses the sparkle of
his Giro victories of 2001 and 2003, but the indomitable spirit remains intact.
The blistering turn of pace on the climbs that saw him scorch to three stage
wins at the 2003 Giro may have been tempered by the passing of time, but when it
comes down to a straight dogfight, as on the Zoncolan last year, few can match
Simoni’s determination. With this in mind, stage 14, on home roads over the
Passo Manghen to Alpe di Pampeago (where he won in 2003), seems tailor made for
a show of strength from Simoni.
The Diquigiovanni leader arrives at the Giro without a win to his name so far
this season, but he was already showing very clear signs of form at the Giro del
Trentino, and, as ever, is bullish about his condition, saying “I wasn't able to
win a stage at Trentino but, what can I say, there weren't hard enough stages
for me.” As for the Giro itself, his outlook is simple - “I’ll give my
best, that much is certain. My objective is to ride a great Giro”.
2008 Giro d'Italia Squad
Gilberto Simoni (Italy)
Alessandro Bertolini (Italy)
Danilo Hondo (Germany)
Raffaele Illiano (Italy)
Ruslan Ivanov (Moldova)
Gabriele Missaglia (Italy)
Daniele Nardello (Italy)
Carlos José Ochoa (Venezuela)
Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Colombia)
An experienced guard of Italian riders will be
flanking Simoni in his quest for Giro glory.
2007 Coppa Agostini: Alessandro Bertolini won the race and the "Triptyque
Lombard" series. The 36 years old veteran had a renaissance in 2007
gaining a place on the Italian national team where he was active in helping
Paolo Bettini winning his second world championship.
Alessandro Bertolini finished 2007 with
an impressive haul of six wins. Under normal circumstances, he would be given
free rein to chases stage victories, but his primary brief this time around will
surely be to protect the interests of his leader.
Daniele Nardello was once a great white
hope of Italian cycling, as he developed in the Mapei stable, and a couple of
top ten placings and a stage win at the Tour de France in the late 90s suggested
that he was destined for the sport’s top table. In spite of following that up
with wins in the Italian Championship in 2001 and the Championship of Zurich in
2003, Nardello never quite scaled the heights he promised, and became a rather
deluxe domestique at T-Mobile. Without a win since 2003, he will be hoping to
sniff out an opportunity at some point in the three weeks.
Gabriele Missaglia is another man whose
palmares has been rather bare in recent times. Since winning the HEW Cyclassics
in 2000, he has just one win to his name. However, Missaglia did win a Giro
stage in 1997, and was part of Simoni’s Lampre squad when he won the race in
2001, and is full of praise for his leader, who he says is “the kind of guy who
can motivate you to give 50 per cent more”.
Perhaps more than anyone, Neapolitan Raffaele
Illiano embodies Gianni Savio’s vision of cycling, with his
never-say-die attitude and non-stop attacking philosophy, not to mention a keen
sense of humour. After suffering the misfortune of being mugged while training
last year, Illiano had this to say, “My Neapolitan mates won’t believe it; just
think, me, from Naples, getting my bike stolen!” Winner of the blue Intergiro
jersey the following season, Illiano grabbed his biggest win to date with a
stage at Tirreno-Adriatico this year.
Tour of Langkawi 2008: Assistant Director Marco Bellini gives Ruslan Ivanov a
few last minute instructions before the start. Savio and Bellini signed the
rider after two years without a pro contract leading to one of his best career
victories. Photo © 2008
was signed by Diquigiovanni in the winter specifically to support Simoni at
the Giro, although the 35 year-old Moldovan has already landed an important win
for the team this season with overall victory at the Tour of Langkawi.
Stage 5 Tour de Langkawi 2008: Danilo Hondo could celebrate his 11th anniversary
as a pro rider and 70th pro victory.
Photo © 2008 Action Images
Meanwhile, controversial sprinter Danilo Hondo
will perhaps be Diquigiovanni’s best chance of stage wins outside of
Simoni. Returned after a
for testing positive for carphedon in 2005, he will be looking to regain the
form that gave him back to back sprint wins in the first week of the 2001 Giro.
Tour of Langkawi 2008: A pensive Jose Perez Serpa (Serramenti-PVC) awaits his
call to the podium; a climber by trade, Serpa took the Stage 6 sprint victory in
Kuala Rompin. Photo © 2008
No Savio team would be complete without a South American
influence, and this year it comes from the highly-rated climber
José Serpa. The Colombian has twice won atop
the mighty Genting Highlands at the Tour of Langkawi, and has the experience of
a solid 2006 Giro under his wheels. Expect to see him ride strongly in support
of his leader on the climbs, and maybe push for a stage win if given his head.
The team is completed by Carlos José Ochoa,
a Venezuelan climber who might just be the latest Savio discovery to explode
onto the scene at the Giro.
The average age of Diquigiovanni might be one of the highest at Giro, but, as
Savio notes, that may well work to his team’s advantage in the race’s hectic
final week. The Giro is, he explains, “a constant build-up of fatigue, tension
and stress. With age, you learn to deal with those factors much better”.
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