Yellow Fluo becomes Neri Sottoli, plays down suggestions Horner could be offered contract
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Yellow Fluo becomes Neri Sottoli, plays down suggestions Horner could be offered contract

by Shane Stokes at 12:59 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Relaunched Italian team hoping for Giro d’Italia wildcard

Neri SottoliThe former Vini Fantini-Selle Italia team, which went under the working title of the Yellow Fluo team after its main sponsors left in the wake of two doping cases, has announced a new title sponsor today.

The squad has inked a deal with the Italian food company Neri Sottoli, which will provide the largest part of the backing for the team in 2014.

“We are happy to crown a path with Neri Sottoli and the family Baronti,” stated team manager Angelo Citracca in announcing the news today. “Indeed from the youth categories, Neri Sottoli has never failed us its support. Now we are proud to have Neri Sottoli as main sponsor and thus complete the project of a 'Made in Tuscany' team.”

“In a difficult moment in sport and the global economy, it's satisfying to be able to rely on a company leader in food, a company which is 100% Italian and Tuscan, like our project".

The squad lost previous backers Vini Fantini-Selle Italia squad after two of its top riders tested positive for EPO earlier this year.

Former Giro winner Danilo di Luca was ejected from the Giro d’Italia after it emerged that he had tested positive in a pre-race test. Then, after the event finished, it was announced that stage fourteen winner Mauro Santambrogio had a positive A test for the blood booster, with that sample taken in a random control taken on the opening day of the race.

In September the Italian media reported that Santambrogio’s B sample had tested negative, meaning that the rider might go unsanctioned. However the damage to the team’s image had already been done, and so too for the sponsors.

In a bid to recover from that, it has made pledges of public clarity and internal anti-doping controls, saying that it will ensure greater transparency in future.

The Neri Sottoli company head Giuliano Baronti said that he and the company were both happy and excited about the deal. “Cycling is part of our DNA, both as a family and as a company. Getting to fill the role of main sponsor in a professional team led by people who we trust in and to which we give high confidence is the completion of an important journey made in cycling world. We consider it an excellent promotional tool to spread our products and the quality of our work.”

In addition to becoming the main sponsor, the company will also aid the team in its marketing and social media efforts, thus maximising the visibility of the project.

The team is hoping to convince Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport that it deserves a second chance and should be considered for a wildcard for the 2014 race. On November 27th RCS Sport announced that eight teams were at that point in the running for an invite. They were the Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, Caja Rural-RGA, Team Colombia, IAM Cycling, MTN-Qhubeka, Team NetApp-Endura, Team Novo Nordisk and UnitedHealtcare Pro Cycling teams.

The Yellow Fluo/Neri Sottoli squad was not on that list but RCS Sport’s spokesman Matteo Cavazzuti told VeloNation that the closing date for applications was December 18th, and therefore it could yet be considered.

Team spokesman Francesco Pelosi said that the team would apply in the final days before that deadline, and that it hoped to be able to convince RCS that it could be trusted after the Di Luca and Santambrogio incidents.

Possibility of Horner joining deemed unlikely:

Chris HornerMeanwhile Pelosi clarified the situation in relation to rumoured interest in Chris Horner, who is still searching for a team for next season despite winning the Vuelta a España. La Gazzetta dello Sport reported today that the rider’s agent Michael Rutherford had approached Citracca on the matter. The newspaper said that signing the American was primarily a question of budget.

Pelosi confirmed today that the two parties had been in contact, but said that it was far too premature for anyone to suggest the rider was likely to go there.

“We have had contact with the manager of Horner. But in this moment there is only this contact,” he told VeloNation. “There is no specific interest and no offer at present.

“After this article came out I spoke to his manager this morning. We are thinking about it [the signing], but it’s only a possibility.”

Horner became the oldest ever winner of a Grand Tour in September when he took the Vuelta a España at 41 years of age. Despite that victory, he and Rutherford have been unable to find a team which is willing to pay what he wants to earn.

His former RadioShack Leopard squad is winding up but many of the riders and staff are transferring across to the new Trek Factor Racing project. It stated several weeks ago that it had ended talks with Horner; money is thought to have been the main reason for the breakdown of discussions.

Horner has since had to drop his price but, despite the fact that he is now more affordable, the team confirmed to VeloNation this week that it had no second thoughts on the matter. “We’re happy with the roster as it currently stands and looking forward to racing with the riders we have,” stated spokesman Eric Bjorling.

As for the Neri Sottoli possibility, Pelosi said that there was only a slim chance that a deal would materialise. “There is not such big interest from the team,” he said. “I think it is seventy percent likely that we will not have him with us next season.”

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