Julio Alberto “lucky” Perez Cuapio
The small Italian team of Bruno and Roberto Reverberi, of the Ceramiche Panaria – Fiordo team have announced their 2003 squad. Star man is of course “Lucky” Perez. Without doubt the Mexican rider has won world wide fame through his exploits in the Giro mountain stages. The team will also include Giuliano Figueras and Paolo Lanfranchi. Graeme Brown will continue the tradition of tough Aussie sprinters.
Never the biggest budgeted team in the world, the Ceramiche Panaria – Fiordo Team must be applauded for its continued support of the sport throughout what must have been a very hard season - “Lucky Perez” remains the star jewel.
Perez is ambitious, and has improved in each race; he won the Mountains jersey and a stage in Langkawi in 2000.
In 2001 things continued to progress.
The small Mexican climber, Julio Alberto “Lucky” Perez Cuapio first captured the international cycling headlines in the 2001 Giro - stage 13, a spectacular victory over 224 kilometres between Montebelluna and Passo Pordoi, made even more poignant following two crashes that had removed several teeth and done little to advertise carbon fibre forks earlier in the race.
One must begin to wonder if 13 is the “lucky number” for “Lucky” Perez. In this year's Giro he once again won stage 13 and added to that with a great win on stage 16.
The Mexican, of Ocotelulco, Tlaxcala, has indicated that the goal and "my dream" for the Giro 2003 is to take the first place in the general classification. Much of the closed season will be spent in the gymnasium "to obtain more power in the legs".
Perez Cuapio will also work on improving his time trialing abilities "which are important to improve in the general classification".
The Mexican loves the mountains
Sadly, another of "Lucky’s" dreams seems unlikely to be fulfilled next season - "to participate in the Tour of France and to win one or two stages" - he is realistic about the chances of the Ceramiche Panaria getting a wld card place in the Tour: "In the Tour there are usually 22 teams, four of them wild cards - almost always French."
Incredibly loyal to the Reverberi brothers and his sponsors ("I want to dedicate this victory to the Mussini family, the Panaria and Fiordo sponsors, as all of them stood beside us in the bad times we had recently. And they are intentioned to continue this way," he said after his stage 13 victory), Perez is still ambitious and knows that the only way forward for him is through success - "I hope that my results me allow me to be able to consider changing teams in 2004 so that I am able to participate in the Tour."
Other ambitions for the climbing sensation from Ocotelulco are naturally his native race, the Tour of Mexico: “I would love to be able to compete in the Tour of Mexico. Unfortunately this important race has not been run in the last couple of years".
On the dopage problems that dogged the team this season Perez is clear - “I do use nutritional complements, and I have never tested non negative - in this year's Giro I was tested five times; all were negative. It is true that my teammates have been involved in dopage situations and unfortunately the police treats them worse than criminals. But always remember that the UCI list is very long and complicated and it is easy to be caught out by a product that you would consider perfectly harmless".
The Race for the Pink Jersey
“Lucky” Perez has one final dream - support from the Mexican Federation of Cycling or from the Mexican national sport institutions such as CIMA. Perez was earning the Italian national minimum wage for cyclists when he won his first stage in the Giro, and such are the financial dynamics of the Ceramiche Panari team that it is clear that Perez and a rider such as Lance Armstrong are poles apart on their take home pay.
"In order to prepare properly you need a sound financial footing. I do not have economic support from any National body, I am totally dependant on my team for finances. I wish I had a little more support from the Mexican authorities.”
“Lucky” Perez will hopefully thrill his fans in the mountains again next season; as for those other ambitions, time will tell...
The return of Figueras
Giuliano Figueras first caught international headlines when he became the under 23 Champion of the World in Lugano in 1996. Turning professional in 1998 with the Mapei team, he achieved his first success in Malaysia, winning the Queen stage in the Genting Highlands, and consolidated his position the following year in Europe with six victories. However in 2000, having to ride continually for Mapei's great captains like Bartoli, Bettini, Tafi and Tonkov, the Neapolitan lost his way and fell out with the team's patron Squinzi. The Reverberi brothers Bruno and Roberto, the leading force behind the Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo team, were quick to offer Giuliano a place and last season he consolidated his position, finishing an encouraging 10th in the Giro.
The early season signs in 2002 were encouraging for a great Giro race. He was second only to Garzelli and ahead of Casagrande in the GP Industria e Artigianato - Larciano 1.2 and won the Giro dell Appennino 1.2 on 01/05/2002.
However then came the bad news - as Fabio reported on 05/08/02 - “Italy's Giuliano Figueras, will hardly be at the race start line in Groningen. On Wednesday the Neapolitan, involved in an affaire related to banned substances found by the Carabinieri anti-drug squads during the famous 2001 Giro raids in the San Remo hotels, got a six month suspension by the Italian Cycling Federation's Disciplinary Commission, three of which are to be served immediately, and will consequently miss the coming Giro."
Nevertheless, Figueras remains with the team, and as team Captain will be expected, and has the natural ability, to regain his reputation.
Ceramiche Panaria – Fiordo 2003
· Giuliano Figueras
· Cuapio Julio Alberto Perez
· Graeme Brown
· Filippo Perfetto
· Sergey Matveyev
· Paolo Tiralongo (from Fassa Bortolo)
· Luca Mazzanti (from Mercatone Uno)
· Paolo Lanfranchi (from Index Alexia)
· Brett Lancaster (from iTeamNova.com)
· Fabio Gilioli (Néo)
· Ruben Bongiorno (Néo)
· Claudio Bartoli (Néo)
· Scott Davis (Néo)
Manager: Bruno Reverberi
Directeur sportif: Roberto Reverberi
Pictures - Daily Peloton , Radsport.