Interview with Claudio Corti, Team Manager Saeco
Team Saeco has been one of the most competitive teams in the first part of the season and especially in the spring classics. Did you think you’d start the Giro having done so well?
"The results are thanks to hard work and organisation which we always knew would pay off. We had some difficult moments last year when everything seemed to be going against us but we refused to give up and all the team continued to work hard with an impressive enthusiasm and determination. Now we’re getting back what we sowed."
With a Saeco team which was always in the thick of the action, often winning and with lots of different riders...
"I personally think this is one of the main reason for our success. We’ve managed to create a team where there are recognised leaders but also other riders who have the space and responsibility so that they know they are part of an important project. They know that they are as equally important when they help a team mate and when they have their own chance of winning a race."
However none of the successful riders of the spring will be in the Giro team...
"I don’t think that’s a problem. In fact it’s important to understand that we’ll be riding all three major stage races and so we have to share out the races and the riders. Of the group of riders which was baptised the “rote garde” the red guard, in Belgium, and was so successful in the spring, Fabio Sacchi and Dario Pieri will ride the Giro. Sacchi is an important team player who has an impressive and continuos level of fitness that lasts most of the season. Pieri almost won Paris-Roubaix and will certainly win in the next few years. Now he just has build on that ride with a good Giro. If he continues to trust his own ability, he’ll do really well."
Regarding the classics, are you satisfied with this year’s results?
"Igor Astarloa’s win at Fleche-Wallone was a jewel of a win surrounded with other prestigious results including Celestino’s second place at Milan-San Remo and the third places from Di Luca’s Amstel Gold, Astarloa at the GP Frankfurt and Shefer at the Fleche-Wallone. In general we’re very happy even if Di Luca performed a little less than expected. However I know he’s very determined and so I’m sure he’ll be in the action at the Tour de France and in the summer World Cup races."
At the Giro Saeco will be picking up where they left off last year.
"We’ve managed to get over the problems of last year’s Giro. Simoni has bounced back and has shown it with his wins at the Giro del Trentino and the Giro dell’Appennino. He’s got a lot of experience and is very consistent and so is one of the big favourites for the Giro."
All for one and one for all More than ever...
"Of course. Gilberto will have team mates who can give the best possible help both on the flat and in the mountains. The team management and staff have a lot of faith in this group of riders and our high moral helps everybody get over all of the small problems we’re bound to find along the way."
Who are your biggest rivals?
"I can only repeat the names everybody is saying: Casagrande, Garzelli and Aitor Gonzalez. But I have to say that I think Simoni is capable of beating all of them."
What reasons do you give for the decision to leave Ivan Quaranta out of the team? Is it right to sacrifice a sprinter to focus entirely on the pink jersey?
"We’ve got a priority and that forces us to make what are sometimes difficult choices. We’ve got some regrets about not having Quaranta at the Giro but we’re also convinced of our decision. We’ve got to focus our resources to help the rider who can win us the pink jersey. It’s also important to note that Quaranta hasn’t yet reached a satisfactory level of form or results. He needs more time to get used to our way of doing things. However Ivan will have a chance at the Tour de France."
After the Giro, there’s the Tour de France, after all the problems of last year...
"Yes but we’re proved right in the end. I think the organiser of the Tour de France made a big mistake leaving us out of the race and I think they’ve realised it too. However we’ve put it behind us and we’re looking forward to the Tour. If everything goes right we’ll have Simoni at the start in great form and a brilliant team for stage wins."
With such high objectives, Saeco is clearly one of the best teams in the world...
"I thought we already were in certain aspects. Experience shows that it is impossible to improvise success in cycling at a world level. Only serious planning and organisation backed up with solid financial support can get results. I’ve never believed that improvising can get good results."
Can you tell us the secret of this successful Saeco team in one word?
"There aren’t any secrets but there is a lot of enthusiasm and motivation which comes from our sponsor Sergio Zappella the owner of Saeco. The synergy in the team is also important. We’re able to openly discuss and try and improve everything we do. We had a great classics campaign and yet the day after we started asking ourselves how we could do even better. As team manager I think the most important factor is our humility. It’s what I like best of the team and think it is a productive way of doing things."
Interview with Gilberto Simoni
Three wins in just a few days; a stage and the overall classification at the Giro del Trentino and then the Giro dell’Appennino. All won with a form that you yourself defined as excellent, and with a team that is on a great moment of form. You couldn’t ask for more...
"No, it’s a definitely a great moment for me. I’m feeling better now than I ever have done, including when I won the Giro in 2001. I can feel the optimism and faith everybody has and the wins really helped me get things going. I really wanted to do well at the Giro del Trentino and it was a great party for all my fans, while the Giro dell’Appennino was a great test ready for the Giro. The race was decided on a tough climb and showed that both I and my team mates are in great shape.
So far it’s been a great season for the Saeco team. It’s logical to think the good results can continue at the Giro...
"I hope so! I want to give a lot back to the team because they believed in me when things weren’t so going so well. A sponsor like Saeco deserves lots of success and the team and I want to win the pink jersey, even if it is a year later than it should have been."
Regarding the team, the management seem to be aiming for overall victory without thinking very much about individual stage wins...
"I think our directeur sportifs and team manager Claudio Corti have made the right choice like they always do. We’ve got a big objective and so it’s right that everything is planned around it."
Before heading to the start of the Giro, you made one last visit to the Zoncolan, the sacred mountain of the 2003 Giro. Is it as terrible as people say?
"I went back for another look at the Zoncolan because the first time I went I had to stop three kilometres from the top because of the bad weather. It was worth it because it is the last three kilometres that will make the biggest difference. It’s a terrible climb, I think it can only be compared to the Angliru in Spain. I’m sure it will cause a lot of problems for the riders who aren’t great climbers. While whoever thinks they are not very strong in the time trials will have to gain time on the Zoncolan. It’s important to remember that the climb is in the second week of the Giro and so won’t be decisive but I think it will get ride of some riders from the select group which will fight it out for the overall victory."
Do you think it will be battle day after day?
"I think the overall contenders will use every moment they get to pick up the time bonuses. This will automatically mean it will be important to be careful, race near the front of the bunch and work hard with the team. Fortunately I’m not worried about that last aspect."
How is your preparation for this Giro different from in the past?
"This time I’ve followed a well structured programme. I’ve raced a lot so that I could gradually reach a good level of fitness but without rushing or pushing hard to be at my best. I think the psychological aspect is also important. The birth of my daughter Sofia was an immense joy which has given me a happiness and serenity that I didn’t have before."
Talk about your main rivals.
"I think Garzelli and Aitor Gonzalez are the most dangerous. Garzelli impressed me with how he managed to be so fit after long time away from racing, while Gonzalez has the advantage of being a complete rider and especially strong in the time trials. Just behind them I’d say there is Casagrande and Frigo and then on the big climbs I think Pantani and Perez Cuapio will be good. It will a be an aggressive Giro and I’ll have to be careful on every stage."
What will you say to your Saeco team mates before the start in Lecce?
"That we have to ride together and give it everything right to the end of the race. Fortunately I know they’re very motivated to do well. This year the team is even more united and so the results have come as a consequence. I’m sure Saeco will do well at the Giro d’Italia, just have they have done so far this year."
Will the result of the Giro affect how you face the Tour de France?
"I don’t think so. I’m so motivated I could race the Giro and the Tour for three consecutive seasons. Last year we were unjustly left our of the Tour de France. When we go back this year, we’re determined to leave our mark. Armstrong is obviously the big favourite but as I’ve already said, I’ve got a lot of respect for him but I’m ready to take him on without being frightened of him, especially if I’m as strong and as fit as I am now."
Saeco For the Clasica Alcobendas and Vuelta Asturias
Astarloa and Fuentes the Spanish stars at Alcobendas
Commesso looking for his first win at the Vuelta Asturias.
Igor Astarloa - one of the key riders of Team Saeco’s incredibly successful spring with his win at Fleche-Wallone, will be one of the favourites for the Alcobendas race being held tomorrow May 10 in Spain.
Along with the Basque champion, who has already won in Spain after taking a stage of the Vuelta Valenciana, directeur sportif Bruno Vicino has selected Juan Fuentes, the young Catalan rider who won the GP Industria & Artigianato in Italy last Saturday. Italian champion Salvatore Commesso will also ride in Spain, while the team will have the experienced Alessio Galletti and the help of Cristian Pepoli, Igor Pugaci, Joerg Ludewig and neo-pro Antonio Bucciero.
Except for Igor Astarloa, who will be replaced by Giosue Bonomi, the same team will take part in the Vuelta Asturias scheduled from Tuesday May 13 to Saturday May 17.