Feature: Liquigas cannons’ day at Milan-Sanremo?
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Feature: Liquigas cannons’ day at Milan-Sanremo?

by Ed Hood at 6:19 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Milan-Sanremo
Team’s press officer Paolo Barbieri gives a look inside Italian squad

Peter SaganIf there's one 'squadra' guaranteed to be in the mix as La Primavera hurtles along the Ligurian Coast on Saturday afternoon, it's Liquigas.

Stage wins for Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali, crowned by the latter's GC win in Tirreno-Adriatico underscored the team's dream start to season 2012.

Elia Viviani set the ball rolling with a stage win in San Luis, Argentina.

He then took his good from home to win the Italian season opening GP Costa degli Etruschi for the second year running, before adding both stages and the GC of the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria.

Also on the home front, the man with good genes, Moreno Moser took the Trofeo Laigueglia.

Sagan and Nibali both scored in the Tour of Oman before Eros Cappechi’s further addition to the Liquigas UCi points coffer in the UCi 1.1 G.P. Città di Lugano.

The Liquigas team is unusual in the world of professional cycling in that it is wholly owned by the sponsoring company – there’s no management company between the riders and the sponsors.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that the squadra is now in its eleventh year?

VeloNation took time to speak to the team’s press officer Paolo Barbieri just before the longest Monument there is. While he isn’t a directeur sportif, he gave a fine insight into one of the teams of the moment, a squad which is on a roll.

He spoke about the team’s wins this year, Nibali’s triumph in Tirreno-Adriatio and the Tour of Oman, his disagreement with Peter Sagan, the latter’s own successes, strategies for Sanremo, Franco Pellizotti's return to cycling and more.

VeloNation: The team has had a great start to the season, Paolo…

Paolo Barbieri: We’re a little surprised; you don’t really know what’s going to happen at this time of the season because the guys are on their way up the fitness curve.

And at the start of the season the smaller teams in Italy are all out to impress to try to gain selection for the big races – they’re very competitive.

We’re happy, but we can’t be too happy – the big tests are still to come.

VN: You lost a couple of riders over the winter…

PB: We lost Jacopo Guarnieri to Astana, they made him a good offer – but that’s professional cycling.

And Simone Ponzi went there too, he’s a harder rider to replace – it’s difficult to find good climbers.

VN: But you made new signings, too.

PB: Our speciality has always been to find good young riders. We have talent scouts who watch the junior and U23 results – we look for good DNA!

Our directors too are on the lookout and have the quality of being able to identify good young riders – it adds value to their role in the team.

VN: Viviani has started the season brilliantly, but isn’t his riding the omnium in the World Cup a distraction?

Paolo BarbieriPB: No, it’s a great opportunity for Elia and for the team to represent Italy at the Olympics – the team must show respect for the Italian national squad.

Elia is a very promising rider on the track as well as being a good roadman and it’s not as if he’ll be riding a road and track programme for his whole career – post-Olympics there will be less track for him.

His track experience is closed for the moment - as for the Worlds in Melbourne, that’s a decision which the rider and the team will make jointly in April.

The Giro is in May so it will be a difficult decision.

VN: A good win for Moreno Moser in Laigueglia…

PB: It was a great surprise. He’s usually a very calm person but he was so excited after that victory.

We feel he has the potential to be a great rider – again it shows our ability to identify young talent.

VN: It must have been a relief for Nibali to go back to winning ways in Oman?

PB: It was also a signal. Vincenzo is a very strong character, his 2011 season was ‘quite good,' but he’s a winner and he couldn’t be really happy with a season where there were no wins.

That was a very hard stage which he won and it was good for his morale, which showed at Tirreno.

VN: Was he confident going in to the final chrono in Tirreno?

PB: Yes, the stage the previous day where he narrowed the gap to six seconds on Horner and just one second on Kreuziger gave him a lot of confidence.

In his mind those gaps were possible to close.
On the morning he was calm and confident - but actually had Kreuziger down as the danger man.

VN: What about the much discussed 'spat' between Nibali and Sagan?

PB: In Chieti there was a mistake made by Peter, but the day after it was not a problem.

When he studied the video he could see that his move had not been necessary.

Vincenzo NibaliAnd of course Vincenzo didn't appreciate what happened - the team worked hard and he was disappointed not to get the bonus.

But to talk of 'battles in the hotel' is nonsense - and Peter's riding and attitude for the rest of the race demonstrated that from that moment he was thinking only of Vincenzo, not himself.

VN: Sagan started winning early this year…

PB: I can’t say that was a surprise!

Peter rides and wins from January to October – the stages in Qatar weren’t really for him, they were pure sprinters’ stages.

This year he wants to show in the Classics, that takes experience, good condition and a degree of luck.

We won’t be asking him to win Classics, but this year he wants to be more competitive in the big one day races – and he’ll make his Tour debut.

VN: Will we see Daniel Oss with more freedom in 2012?

PB: He’s in good shape; he did a lot of work for the team in Oman and Qatar.

He’s really motivated for this season…I spoke to him just this morning and he’s very much looking forward to the cobbled Classics.

He wasn’t lucky in 2011 and whilst it wasn’t disastrous he wants to show, this season.

He’s not just a good rider, he’s a winner and along with Sagan he’ll be our rider in Flanders and Roubaix.

VN: And what of Ivan Basso?

PB: He’s currently not at the level he wants to be – the winter in Italy was very bad which restricted training opportunities.

But there’s no drama, he has time to catch up.

He’s a very experienced rider and not the type you have to follow to make sure they’re training properly – he’s a total professional in every respect.

He’s targeting the Giro and will be there at 100%, provided he encounters no problems.

His crash in Paris-Nice did not help, but he's recovering and working towards the Giro.

VN: Do you feel that the team will benefit from Contador’s absence in the Giro and Tour?

PB: First of all, I cannot be happy with all aspects of the Contador case.

Vincenzo moves up from third to second in the 2011 Giro but he cannot be happy with a result which is decided by a judge.

I think Contador's absence will make for a more open race with more riders fighting for the podium.

Contador is the best, he’s a phenomenon – you saw it in the Giro, which he won clean, he showed he was the best. Without him the Giro may be more or less – we won’t know until May.

VN: With the announcement of another race in China, what’s your take on ‘Globalisation?’

PB: First of all, changes in tradition I don’t like – changing the Lombardia date.

New nations to cycling are good, it’s important for new people to see the pros – the best teams, the best riders in the World Tour.

If that takes Cycling to India and China then that’s good; but we must not forget the old races, they should not be allowed to fall.

The Tour of Sardinia was a great race in a very beautiful place but because of financial problems it cannot be run.

Franco PellizottiVN: How do you feel about Franco Pellizotti's upcoming return to the sport?

PB: Franco deserves a second chance.

I don’t want to go through the case again – it was very complicated and the decision is still difficult to accept.

But Franco is a very, very good person and deserves to back on the World Tour.

VN: Milan-Sanremo - what's the team strategy?

PB: We have two options - Vincenzo on the Poggio and Peter in the sprint from a small group.

If it comes to a bunch sprint and Cavendish is there . . .

But it's a strange race, there are some strong teams there - QuickStep, Sky, GreenEdge with all of their riders in good shape, not just the leaders.

And they all have their plans, just like we have ours.

It's not as if we can ignore these teams and just go ahead with our plan - we have to watch these teams and hope that they make little mistakes which we can exploit.

VN: Who are the 'danger men' for you?

PB: I was talking to our DS, Mario Scirea this morning and he named Cavendish, Goss, Boonen and Cancellara but also Bennati, Freire, Hausler and perhaps Greipel.

But the race is very open and it may just be name which none of us have thought about.


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