What do you expect from 2003, apart from some good results ? "To have a more peaceful and calm season at personal level. The troubles I had in 2002 were enough for ten years. But now I am just eager to regain both the motivation and good condition I had in the past. I think I'll get the first one as soon as I get more acquainted with the team, and the time of my comeback nears. As for the second, I need time, and hope I may have a lot a my disposal".
Words from a rider that will be longing for April to come as much as people living in colder climates long for spring flowers to blossom and birds to return.
But the reasons of Stefano Garzelli are a bit less poetical, and more pragmatically linked to his comeback to cycling, which should take place in the second half of the month, namely after the 23rd of April, when the nine-month ban he got (from the same Swiss Cycling Federation he's a member of) after the doping scandals involving him during the past Giro (guess most, if not all, of you already know the details) finally comes to end. In the meantime, the lombard found the time to chat with a "Gazzetta dello Sport" journalist during a team get-together, finishing on Friday, November 29, in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
Team, I wrote. Yes, but which one ? As previously said, in late April the former Mapei-Quick Step will be able to get on his bike and race again, but not with his ancient outfit, no longer part of the cycling scene.With a decision many say was strongly influenced by last year's Giro events, Team boss Squinzi decided to stop sponsoring the team and pull out of the sport, and riders had to find a new place. Some has not succeeded yet , but Garzelli has: he will be team leader at Tacconi Sport the next season.
And actually the first words from the 29-year-old, Tourof Italy winner in the Y2K edition, are for his new squadra: "They believed in me. And that's a good thing. So I opted for signing with them. Tacconi Sport is a bit different from Mapei, they are more a "familiar" team, but nonetheless there are several good riders in the roster, and excellent sport directors as well. So I'm definitely satisfied with the choice I have made. In my opinion that is the best possible environment to regain the motivations and good condition I've lost".
A choice similar to Frigo's, who moved to Tacconi last year, looking for redemption after the doping scandals that affected him in the 2001 Giro. And looking for some good results too, which in fact came quite soon, with the overall win at Tour of Romandy, followed by a Tour de France stage victory, the only one for Italian riders in a two-year period. Garzelli didn't identify himself as another Frigo anyway (and one more time said he acted in good faith during the Giro) but expressed the hope that somehow he may follow Frigo's steps in being as successful as the former Tacconi rider was in the past cycling season.
Of course Garzelli is also hoping not to follow Frigo's steps in the Giro. The latter was among the hot favourites in last year's race, looking for redemption in the corsa rosa too, but miserably failed at the decisive moment, when he bonked big way on the Folgaria ascent.
Trying to explain the reason for his Giro disaster, Dario Frigo said that he had also paid the price for being in an excessive hurry to get as many good results as soon as possible, beacause training too hard, and giving it all too early, costed him dearly in the final part of the opening Grand Tour of the year. Might Garzelli run the same risk ? Or is it all about (the lack of) experience ? "Well, I know it is possible, but I'll try not to make such a mistake. I have taken part in many Giros, even won the race two years ago, and I think I know how important is to show regularity all over the three weeks of racing; I've already proved that I can be a regular rider. To have a good start is important, but you'd better not go too fast at the beginning. Ability to handle such situations, also with a help from people around if needed, will prove of extreme importance. But as it will be a new situation for me, without the reference points I had in previous years, well, guess such mistakes might occur to me too".
Indeed the ban will likely have a major impact on Garzelli's early season races too, forcing a rider used to train for the Spring Classics, start racing in March, and be in good shape in early April, to lose his "reference points" and change his build-up from previous years. "Factors that may affect me a lot, as I'll start the Giro with just one week or two of racing, out of some twelve months, in my legs. Then it will be up to me to find the proper motivations required to do things I have never done before. It will be a difficult task, but not impossible. Much will depend upon my own attitude". Talking about the Giro, which obviously remains Garzelli's main target for the season, the main said he'll have to change his way of training, perhaps even riding "simulate races" or something alike. "It will be a new adventure, a brand new challenge to me" were Stefano's final remarks on the topic.
More words on Garzelli's main objectives for 2003 "The biggest one is the Tour of Italy of course, but, should my team take part in the Tour, I'd like to have good rides in France too. It's true that the TdF comes not a long time after the Giro, but when a rider is back after a one-year stop, trying to do his best is must for him".
His last words are about the new teammates. As cited above, Garzelli said that, from an exclusively technical point of view, Tacconi Sport is the right team to help him get some wins. But is it so good also to a rider aiming for a Giro top spot, and which teammates does he expect to be most helpful ? "Well, I think the whole team might be of help in the Giro too. There are several excellent riders, and interesting young guns such as Oscar Mason and Steve Zampieri, the latter able to win the KOM competition at both Tour of Switzerland and Romandy, which is no easy thing at all. There is also Stefano Masciarelli. My money is on him too, he's a young rider, but I've already seen good things from the guy.
Another prospect is Giampaolo Cheula, a teammate of mine last year at Mapei. Tacconi Sport is a very young team, maybe with riders still needing to gain more experience, but featuring good climbers and others that may help in flat stages: Andriotto, Apollonio, Gerosa, and Mazzoleni who is an accomplished cyclist, as much as Gianluca Bortolami provided he races the Giro. The squad is good, and wishing to have oustanding performances, so I think we'll be up to the task, able to compete with all other teams. But of course a lot will depend on me, and I'm looking forward to my new challenges".
The Tacconi Sport roster for the 2003 season is as follows:
Andriotto, Dario - ITA - October 25, 1972 (from INDEX - ALEXIA)
Apollonio, Massimo - ITA - October 31, 1970
Balducci, Gabriele - ITA - November 03, 1975
Bortolami, Gianluca - ITA - August 28, 1968
Bossoni, Paolo - ITA - July 02, 1976
Calcagni, Patrick - SWI - July 05, 1977
Cheula, Giampaolo - ITA - May 23, 1979 (from MAPEI-QUICK STEP)
Garzelli Stefano - ITA - July 16, 1973 (from MAPEI-QUICK STEP)
Gerosa, Mauro - ITA - October 09, 1974
Hauptman, Andrej - SLO - May 05, 1975
Masciarelli, Andrea - ITA - September 02, 1982 (NEO-PRO)
Masciarelli, Simone - ITA - January 02, 1980 (from ACQUA & SAPONE-CANTINA TOLLO)
Mason, Oscar - ITA - May 25, 1975 (from SAECO-LONGONI SPORT)
Mazzoleni, Eddy - ITA - July 29, 1973
Radaelli, Mauro - ITA - November 01, 1967
Sironi, Gianluca - ITA - June 28, 1974
Zampieri, Steve - SWI - June 04, 1977
Zucconi, Pietro - SWI - April 16, 1975