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91st Giro d’Italia - Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni Preview
By Staff
Date: 5/7/2008
91st Giro d’Italia - Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni Preview

Giro d’Italia - Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni Team Preview
Gianni Savio's team return to support Gilberto Simoni on his 'Quest' for another Giro victory interesting blend of South American promise and European experience.

Barry Ryan

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 PVC.

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”.

PVC Diquigiovanni
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 Action Images

Ruslan Ivanov 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 suspension 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 Action Images

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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