Team Manager Olivano Locatelli
Podofodonny's excellent recent article focused on Yaroslav Popovych (see link at the bottom of the page) pointed out the skills and potential of the Landbouwkrediet-Colnago rider, one of the most promising youngsters in the professional peloton, but also mentioned the man's successful 2001 season, when the Ukrainian demolished the previous race wins records (also clinching Road World Title in the Under 23 category) and was deservedly labelled as "Eddy Merckx of the Amateurs".
Popovych (or "Popo", or "Yaroslav the Great" as you like) started to make himself known, and got most of his victories, while wearing the jersey of Italy's (and perhaps Europe's) strongest amateur Trade Team, Zoccorinese-Vellutex, and under the guidance of one of the best and most accomplished talent-scouts around, particularly good at discovering young riders and leading them to success: Olivano Locatelli.
Despite being only 46, Locatelli can boast of a twenty-year experience as Team Manager. After being a rider in his early 20s, the man from Bergamo got off his bike and found a place in the director's car. With more than excellent results: over a two decade-time, many of the future stars of the professional peloton have been in the roster of some team coached by Locatelli, and given him plenty of satisfactions directly or indirectly.
The "direct" ones are perfectly represented by the huge number of wins that many of the Locatelli's boys got when competing as amateurs: among them we can mention 2 Olympic Title winners (Giovanni Lombardi on the track, Fabio Casartelli on the road, both in Barcelona 1992), 2 "Baby Giro" champions (courtesy of Wladimir Belli and Ivan Gotti in the late 80s and early 90s), 3 Italian and 2 European Title winners (with Giampaolo Caruso being U23 European Champion in 2001) and three Gold medal getters at the Mediterranean Games, but especially several Rainbow Jersey conquered by his young riders, particularly in recent years: Leonardo Giordani (Road World Champion in 1999), Yaroslav Popovych (who got the same title two years later, with Caruso second and fellow Ukrainian Gryschenko third to complete a sensational hat-trick for Zoccorinese) and the latest addition to this list, Tomas Vaitkus (the Lithuanian Gold Medallist in this Year's U23 ITT World Championships race, who didn't miss to thank coach Locatelli after taking the title in Zolder a month ago) are just a few examples.
Even more riders gave him something to be happy for in an "indirect" way, as after being coached by Locatelli as amateurs, they also got (and are still doing) outstanding results in the pro cycling scene. No less than 93 former "Locatelli's boys" made their way into the professional world, 63 of which are still riding. The names ? Several ones, many of them belonging to well-known cyclists: from the above mentioned Lombardi, Belli and Gotti (and Popovych of course) to Giro d'Italia reigning champion Paolo Savoldelli and 2001 "Lion of Flanders" Gianluca Bortolami, from Dario Frigo and two-time Italian champion Salvatore ("Totó") Commesso, to the likes of Paolo Lanfranchi, Giuseppe "Turbo" Guerini, Gian Matteo Fagnini, Alberto Elli, Giovanni Fidanza (now a successful sport director at Index-Alexia), Lorenzo Bernucci, Alberto Loddo, Stefano Zanini, Eddy Mazzoleni, Valerio Tebaldi and more others.
Four more guys will be added to the list in the coming season; among them are Vaitkus as well as U23 World Cup winner (and also top rider in the U23 UCI ranking) Mikhail Timochine of Russia, both moving to Landbouwkrediet-Colnago. Indeed Locatelli is not just the manager of the Zoccorinese-Vellutex's young guns, but also a sport director of the Italo-Belgian professional team. And more riders with a future - at least looking at the great results achieved by the Zoccorineses during the 2002 season - are likey to join LBC (or other teams, just like Caruso did by moving to ONCE twelve months ago) in years to come. One of them, Italian climber Domenico Puzzovivo, number 3 rider in the UCI Ranking, already signed with LBC, but the 20-year-old from Basilicata will stay at Zoccorinese and race among the amateurs for one more year, with the aim to become a more experienced rider.
Olivano Locatelli prefers a step-by-step approach rather than pretending immediate success by his riders. A strategy he applies not only to "rookies" like Popovych, who got some decent results but didn't aim for excessively big targets in his first year as a pro rider, which the Ukrainian mainly "used" to gain further experience that could be very helpful in the future, but also to younger cyclicts that, according to the manager's opinion, shouldn't turn professional too quickly, but only after they have gradually achieved an adequate degree of experience.
The 46-year-old Team Manager, who also spent a couple of years at Mercatone Uno and (later) Cipollini's Saeco in the early and mid-90s, sounds like he has got clear ideas about one of the "hottest" discussion topics in contemporary cycling: doping. Locatelli says he appreciates all the efforts recently made in the fight against this plague, although he's aware of the dangers coming from an excessive spectacularization of the anti-doping campaign, and thinks that more efforts could and should be done in lesser categories, where some riders start taking banned substances.
His relationships inside the cycling environment are essentially good, and he says he feels comfortable with race organizers and judges, as well as most riders and coaches. But Locatelli also admits that in the past he has had some problems with a few managers of rival teams, and looking at Zoccorinese's palmares you might come to the conclusion that their domination of the Elite 2 and Under 23 peloton in recent times, perhaps causing a sort of envy in some of their challengers, did not help in this sense.
Locatelli confessed that he has been a great fan of talented Gianni Bugno in the 90s, but asked about who, among the several champions he has coached so far, has been his favorite rider, the man chose quite a diplomatic answer, by saying that he appreciated all of them to the same extent. But we won't give up, and will try to pose him the same question in the future, although an answer might be even more complicated then: no doubts that new names will soon be added to the list of young talents discovered and led to success by Olivano Locatelli.