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87th Giro d’Italia: Team Previews - Colombia-Selle Italia
By Fabio
Date: 5/8/2004
87th Giro d’Italia: Team Previews - Colombia-Selle Italia

A great mixture of Aussie, Italian and Colombian legs, with a bit of Swiss taste, the team directed by Gianni Savio, a “legend” among South American cycling fans (he usually coaches also the Colombian National team, and was Santi Botero’s manager when the man captured his country’s first ever World Title in 2002) stole the show before the Giro start in an unpleasant way, as the hematocrit of Uberlino Mesa Estepa was above standard values as blood tests were carried out by the UCI, and the Colombian was forced out of the race, similarly to what happened to Slovenia’s Jure Golcer. But the boys of Colombia-Selle Italia are talented enough to steal the show on the road too, and will certainly prove it as the race kicks off, notably as the race hits the mountains.

The team leader is - of course- Fredy Excelino González Martínez, better known just as Fredy González. The tiny Colombian is one of his country’s best climbers, if not THE best. His “pedigree” says it all, and includes stage wins here and there in Europe and the Americas, as well as two KOM winner’s Green Jerseys in past Giro editions (2001 and 2003, while he barely lost to Francesco Casagrande in the year 2000). Let alone his sensational season start, that saw him finish in the Top 10 places in close to all 14 stages of Venezuela’s UCI-2.5 sanctioned Vuelta al Táchira (season opener of the UCI calendar), and win two of them. He didn’t win the overall though, but redemption time came a couple weeks later, when the 29-year-old from Libano (Tolima departement of Colombia) captured Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. No other great result came since, but the Tour of Italy’s hilly parcours will provide the man with plenty of opportunities to make further additions to his season tally. Don’t be surprised to see him on the podium again, better if wearing a certain green thing.

Fredy Excelino Gonzalez in 2003, wearing his fav Giro jersey

Photo © Daily Peloton

Whereas Fredy’s talent is well-known to Italian fans, the same can’t be said on Marlon Pérez Arango. Until the end of the past season, he was showing off his skills and winning stages mostly on home races like Clásico RCN or Vuelta a Colombia, after an unfortunate first attempt to cross the pond and move to Europe: he signed a contract with Britain’s Linda McCartney-Jacob Creek Team, and was ready to make his debut on European soil in 2001, but the team went bankrupt in January and the now 28-year-old had to get back to Colombian cycling. People at the Linda McCartney team may have faltered on the economic side, but sure made no mistakes when talking of Marlon’s talent: a “true all-rounder, winning on the track, against the clock, and on some steep mountain finishes”, according to the team’s website.

Those words were written more than three years ago, but Pérez proved them right through the years, scoring victories here and there, both with his previous team Orbitel 05 and his current Selle Italia, that finally realized how such a rider was too good to remain in the Andean cycling scene only, and signed him in late 2003. It didn’t take long for the Colombian to pay his new bosses back: Marlon won three stages at Vuelta al Táchira and took line honors also at Tour de Langkawi. Just like in Fredy’s case, he hasn’t been climbing onto the podium for three months, but mainly as he was preparing for the Giro, where he might delight the fans with his unusual way to celebrate …

Stage victory celebration, the Marlon Pérez way

Photo courtesy © MGZ System

… that was how Pérez expressed his joy as he clinched one of his Vuelta al Táchira victories in January. But also other Selle Italia riders have the potential to give Gianni Savio some satisfactions. Like the third Colombian in the roster, Rubén Alveiro Marin. Another skilled mountain man, he might help Fredy and Marlon, or go for some glory all by himself. Or perhaps opt for the “Genting Highlands” plan: in the “queen stage” of this year’s Tour de Langkawi both Fredy and Rubén sped off on their own on the final ascent, and none could follow. The latter took the stage, the former won the race.You can figure out the joy of Colombian radio commentators, and their voices, in case something similar should happen at the Giro too!

Italian radio (and TV) commentators might not have the same “acoustic effect” as their colleagues from Bogotá and surroundings, but sure they would be very happy in case either Raffaele Illiano or Leonardo Scarselli secured any stage victory. A very unlikely event, as neither rider has won anything in the last 18 months. But with the decent results (two Top 10 finishes at Settimana Coppi & Bartali) 27-year-old Neapolitan Illiano had in the past weeks, as well as the combative attitude not unfrequently displayed by Scarselli (runner-up in last year’s Giro del Friuli), they can still harbour some hopes to make the headlines, by getting into some significant breakaway at least .

Australian fans, at their turn, would rejoice at any good performances by Russell Van Hout and/or Trent Wilson. The latter is a newcomer to the Italo-Colombian squad, while the former was back into Gianni Savio’s crew after a season at Holland’s Axa Cycling Team. Four-time victor in the year 2002, Van Hout hasn’t been successful on the road since. The 25-year-old Wilson can boast a KOM title at the 2002 Herald Sun Tour, a race that saw him snatch fifth on GC, plus victories at the Hornsby To Swansea Asutralian contest the same year, and Sydney to Lake Macquarie in 2003. But in the Tour of Italy the two men from Oz will arguably stay beside Selle Italia leader González, and work for him the way they successfully did at Langkawi, where the two domestiques played a significant part in Fredy’s overall triumph.

Last but not least, Switzerland’s Philippe Schnyder (25), another Giro d’Italia debutant that joined the team from Austria’s Volksbank-Ideal in 2004; no outstanding performances for him this year, but two wins in as many UCI 1.5-sanctioned events (Sacrifice Cup in Greece, and the Duo Normand two-man Time Trial in France) in the past season; he will hardly improve his tally in Italy in the next three weeks anyway.

To the disappointment of some Selle Italia fans, José Rujano will not be at the startline. The Venezuelan hopeful dominated his “home race” Vuelta al Táchira in am almost unprecedented way earlier this year, and many a good ones were looking forward to seeing him against much of the best of European cycling on the Giro routes; but just like another promising rider from the American continent, U.S. climbing sensation Tom Danielson, he will have to watch the race on TV.

Selle Italia-Colombia’s eight-men roster at Genoa consists of:

  • 51. GONZALEZ, MARTINEZ, Fredy (Colombia)
  • 52. PEREZ ARANGO, Marlon Alirio (Colombia)
  • 53. MARIN VALENCIA, Rubén Alverio (Colombia)
  • 54. xxxx
  • 55. ILLIANO, Raffaele (Italy)
  • 56. SCARSELLI, Leonardo (Italy)
  • 57. SCHNYDER, Philippe (Switzerland)
  • 58. VAN HOUT, Russel (Australia)
  • 59. WILSON, Trent (Australia)

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