The 87th Giro d’Italia wasn’t off to a good start for the Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé team, with one of their riders, Slovenia’s Jure Golcer, failing a pre-race blood tests carried out by the UCI. He was forced out of the race, and suspended from all racing for 15 days. But the boys on white and blue stripes of the Trentino-based team are skilled enough to make the headlines also on the road, once the race starts.
Needless to say, the main suspect to put Formaggi Pinzolo’s name on the winners list is Ivan “Il Ghepardo” (The Cheetah) Quaranta. The Giro d’Italia means a lot to the sprinter from Crema, Italy, that made his name known to several cycling fans for the first time in the 1999 opener of this race, when most, if not everyone, expected another winning start from Mario Cipollini, and were surprised as this man, at the time unknown to many, pipped the favorites to the line in Sicily, He repeated victory in another stage of the same edition and was recidive in 2000 (2 Giro stage wins again) and 2001, when he raised his arms in triumph two more times in the “Corsa Rosa”. Just add the victories “The Cheetah” scored in many other races, and you may easily realize why he was considered Cipo’s chief rival.
Ivan Quaranta’s website has plenty of pics, videos and more.
Promising Ivan didn’t keep his promises in the two following years though, and while a certain Alessandro Petacchi was emerging, Il Ghepardo was getting into hard times. He notched up some wins in Qatar, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, and even Italy, but nothing than could be compared to his previous Giro d’Italia showdowns. He had some injury problems, and his move to Saeco in 2003 didn’t help: with Simoni going for the double Giro-Tour, the “Red Army” built a team around Gibo, and Ivan was left out of the roster in both Grand Tours. He was given a chance at La Vuelta, but his condition was poor, and he made the headlines only by entering the Vuelta book of records as one of the quickest dropouts in the race history, as he didn’t finish the Prologue Team Time Trial either.
But if the Giro helped Quaranta become famous in 1999, this time it might help him to get back into spotlight: the man said bye to Saeco and signed to Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé, a team where he can be a leader at last, at the end of 2003, and it seems the move positvely affected his performances: The Cheetah has roared twice so far this year, once in Malaysia in February (Race Report) and once at Settimana Lombarda less than a month ago (Race Report). And he sounds well-determined to make his roaring heard loud and clear at the Corsa Rosa too.
Will the man succeed? Of course the Formaggi Pinzolo train is not comparable to Fassa’s, let alone Domina’s leadout machine, but he can always count on an accomplished fastman like Mario Manzoni, at his fifteen year in the pro ranks, who knows Quaranta well as the two were teammates also at Alexia Alluminio later Index-Alexia a couple years ago. A good 10-11 stages that suit the sprinters well would provide many opprtunities, although the man would hardly race them all: Quaranta simply can’t climb, and in a hilly Giro like this it will be extremely difficult for him to make it to Milano.
Besides Quaranta, there’s another rider looking for redemption in the roster: Giuseppe Di Grande. Winner of the “Baby Giro” in 1995, the Siclian from Siracusa was just another promising rider that didn’t keep his promises: his palmares fetaures four victories in the pro ranks, but all of them dating back to 1997 (a Giro Stage included), and nothing else since. And last year the man even made his way back to the amateur ranks! Thankfully he recently signed a contract with Formaggi Pinzolo-Fiavé, and some of his latest performanes, like a second place finish at Settimana Lombarda stage, and his fifth place overall in the same race, plus his Top 10 finishes at Giro del Trentino, are encouraging.
Italy’s Giuseppe Muraglia as well as Colombian Luís Felipe Laverde Jiménez might be the team’s revelations instead. The former, who turned professional last year, is still looking for his first win, but recently came close at Settimana Lombarda and Giro del Trentino as he took second in two different legs of those Italian stage races. Add some more Top 10 finishes, and you may know why there’s room for hope at the Giro too. The South American made his way to the European professional peloton in 2002, when he debuted with the same Formaggi Pinzolo (then Formaggi Trentini). A “veteran” of the Giro (he finished 30rd overall in 2002 and 31st the following year), Laverde did get his first and so far only victory in a Settimana Lombarda stage in 2003, but showed off some excellent form also more recently, with good results in Italian one-day and stage races, the Giro dell’Appennino (Race Report) in particular, where he got into the winning break and finished fourth, a good 15 seconds ahead of Gibo Simoni. But he made the Top 10 also in last Saturday’s GP Industria & Artigianato-Larciano. Laverde is a combative rider that can climb quite well, so why not to expect something good from him at “Il Giro”?
Domenico Gualdi has a fans club too.
One more combative guy in the Formaggi Pinzolo roster is Domenico Gualdi. The 29-year-old Trentino was forced to skip last year’s edition due to tendinitis, but nothing will keep from being at the startline this time, and no doubt we’ll hear his name in some daring break. Ivan Quaranta’s fellow townsman Corrado Serina, another loyal domestique of “The Cheetah”, as well as in-form Bostjan Mervar, the only Slovene in the roster after Golcer’s “pullout”, who comes from a great showdown at Cricuit des Mines (one stage success, two more stage top 3 finishes, and a fifth place in the final standings) and looks ready for his first big Italian challenge, complete the Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé-Ciarrocchi Immobiliare line-up for the 87th Giro D’Italia, that is:
- 101. QUARANTA, Ivan (Italy)
- 102. MANZONI, Mario (Italy)
- 103. MERVAR, Bostjan (Slovenia)
- 104. xxx
- 105. GUALDI, Domenico (Italy)
- 106. DI GRANDE, Giuseppe (Italy)
- 107. MURAGLIA, Giuseppe (Italy)
- 108. LAVERDE JIMENEZ, Luis Felipe (Colombia)
- 109. SERINA, Corrado (Italy)