Giuseppe Martinelli has led the Saeco team as Director Sportif since 2002, and before that, Mercatone Uno and Carrera. He has been a team director for 18 years, and before that, a professional rider from 1977 to 1986, and was the winner of the Silver Medal in the Montreal Olympics in 1976.
Film maker Greg St. Johns, who spent three weeks with the Saeco team as Gilberto Simoni clinched a second Giro DíItalia victory in 2003, has said that that Martinelli, truly the brains behind Saecoís dominating performances, is also the man who truly holds the team together like a family, and that his riders look to him almost as they would a father. Under Martinelliís leadership, the Saeco team attends to its mission in striving for nothing less than a team victory.
The Daily Peloton sat down with Martinelli at Interbike to talk about the Pro Tour, his place in the new Saeco/Lampre merger, and to find out just what it takes to hold a team like Saeco together.
Martinelli stands behind his superstars, Cunego & Simoni
Photo by Jaime Nichols
Will you be the director of the new merger of Saeco and Lampre?
Yes, of course!
What are your thoughts on the ProTour, are you for it? What kinds of changes will you need to make to accommodate that new structure on your team?
Basically, for a big team like Saeco, itís not much of a problem, as we are already part of the ďPro TourĒ even if there were not one. What is really changing right now is having an A & B Division. For those in the A division there are not many changes, but for those in the B Division itís very difficult to find a sponsor, and it is too hard for people to move down or move up. The advantages are youíre going to find good riders in all the Pro Tour events.
In riding the races in the ProTour, will you place a stronger emphasis on some races, or will you really try to focus on all the races?
Definitely a major change in that youíre being forced to race the Pro Tour events as the important races, and have results there to get the points. Also, youíre going to meet all the best riders from all the other teams so itís going to be more demanding. The highlights of the season, though, are going to be the same: Giro, Tour and the Classics, which are not going to be World Cup anymore but will be the same important Classic races. And then everything else is going to become almost just for training.
This year in the Giro you had a situation where your star rider was challenged by a younger man on his own team. Was it a surprise to you how strong Cunego was, or were you expecting it?
It was certainly a surprise, but at the same time, it wasnít a surprise. I couldnít expect him to be such a strong rider at his young age, and in only his second Giro. A lot of things need to come together for something like that to materialize. It means a lot of coincidental preparation, but also a lot of luck. Damiano was in a tremendous state for those one and a half months, so for the Giro he was in great shape and everything else came together, and it was just 100% him. But yes, it remained a surprise.
Young phenomenon Damiano Cunego
Photo by Jaime Nichols
On the stage of the Giro when Cunego gained so much time on everyone, but especially on Simoni, it looked as if that was part of a plan to crack Popyvich that had the unexpected result of putting Simoni in a difficult position. What was your plan that day?
Yes, that was certainly planned Ė it was the stage when Tonti and Spezialetti were ahead, and Simoni attacked first, but he was caught, and then it worked out that Cunego could go away, and he took the opportunity to win the stage.
Iíve been told that all of the riders ride for you almost like a father. How do you keep everyone together even in the face of something difficult like that, that makes somebody mad?
Itís clear that itís a difficult situation and itís not always easy to bring things back together, but at the end of the day, itís a decision thatís been made on the road. As long as I am honest with them, even in difficult situations, they will understand that at the end of the day I need to create a strategy that helps the team to win, because itís the team that needs to win regardless of my strategy. As long as the riders feel I am honest and up-front with them, and Gilberto and Damiano know that I work for them both of them, and for everyone; then there is nothing that they can have an issue with. It has been my job to make Gilberto understand that he was the weaker of the two, and that the road made that decision. As long as they have confidence in me, they understand it and move along.
Simoni answers as Martinelli looks on
Photo by Jaime Nichols
What is it that most makes you love your job as director?
There are two things: one is race strategy and tactics. I like it when I dream of the strategy at night, and come down to have a conversation with the guys at breakfast. Thatís one thing. The second thing is the great group that works together, to make a family and that I am at the head of it.
Finally, my Italian colleague at the Daily Peloton tells me you are a big fan of the Doors. Which is your favorite song?
No particular one, I like them all; but you know, it was Damiano who taught me to love the Doors. Heís a huge fan.
With thanks to Beppo Hilfiker for translation, and Cathy Mehl for transcription!