Martinelli's adventure with Contador officially starts
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Martinelli's adventure with Contador officially starts

by Samuel Morrison at 5:23 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Volta ao Algarve

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador started his season yesterday at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal under the spotlight, but behind him, in the team's car, Giuseppe Martinelli also felt the heat.

"I passed my exam," Astana Sports Director Martinelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Italian Martinelli joined Astana last year after Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong left to form team RadioShack. Team Manager, Frenchman Yvon Sanquer, hired Martinelli to work with Contador thanks to his experience in directing teams to five Grand Tour wins.

"This is a new Astana, different than Bruyneel's," said Martinelli. "There are mechanisms that we still need to sort out. Everyone acts professional, but we have to find the right balance."

Astana started well yesterday, with Spaniard Contador having a go in the final two kilometres on a small climb of 700 metres. He was quickly brought back and Frenchman Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) won the stage. The attack and thrill of racing, though, was a welcome relief to Contador after an off-season of team difficulties.

Contador nearly left Astana at the end of last year. It was only the late confirmation of Astana's ProTour licence registration that kept Contador with the newly re-structured team. The changes included a larger budget from Kazakh Samurik Casina and the arrival of American bike manufacturer, Specialized. It is an international mix for Astana, a team where the most important group of riders are Spanish, with Italy also haveing a large presence.

"Only the fact that I have to talk in Spanish and French worries me," admitted Martinelli. Stage one "was the first test. I will confess, I was a little afraid when we started.

"I feel like Secretary of State who does not have a specific office."

Martinelli won his five Grand Tours with Italian riders: The Giro d'Italia with Stefano Garzelli (2000), Gilberto Simoni (2003), Damiano Cunego (2004), and the Giro-Tour de France double with Marco Pantani in 1998.

Contador is the only active rider to have won all three Grand Tours. He won the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España in 2008 in addition to two editions of the Tour de France, 2007 and 2009. He won Algarve last year, his first race of the 2009 season.

He will face the first mountain of the season, the Serra de Monchique, in today's stage two from Sagres, near Cabo de São Vicente and the 'Fim do Mundo'.


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