Lampre aims for return to top at the Giro d'Italia
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lampre aims for return to top at the Giro d'Italia

by Samuel Morrison at 6:59 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
Team Manager Saronni talks Petacchi, Cunego, Damiani and Kashechkin

Italy's team Lampre-Farnese is aiming to return to the top at the Giro d'Italia with new signee Michele Scarponi. Team boss Giuseppe Saronni outlined the team's plans at Lampre's team camp in northern Italy.

Scarponi finished the three-week Giro d'Italia with one stage win and in fourth overall, 2'50" behind winner Ivan Basso.

"This year he lost a lot in the time trial, otherwise he would have battled with Basso," Saronni told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He will certainly be a protagonist. And we, as the Italian team, are interested in being protagonists at the Giro after years of absence."

This year, Lampre failed to win a stage of the Giro d'Italia. The team's star rider, Damiano Cunego battled with World Champion Cadel Evans on the muddy stage to Montalcino, but had to settle for second.

"I'm sure Damiano will come back to win. At the Giro, he found a strong Evans on the Strade Bianche stage [to Montalcino]. And at the Tour, he came close to victory in two stages. It has been a strange and unfortunate."

Italy's Cunego will focus on winning another Ardennes Classic next year and give his Grand Tour ambitions a rest. He has yet to decide if he will race the Giro d'Italia or one of the other two Grand Tours. However, he will aim primarily for the Ardennes Classics that take place in the space of eight days in late April: Amstel Gold on Sunday, which he won in 2008, Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on the last Sunday of the month.

"I will let him make the decisions, just trying to help where I can," continued Saronni. "The goal is to focus on the classics, but that doesn't mean 'no' to the Giro if he is strong in the spring."

Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi will likely race the Tour de France, where this year he won two stages and the green points jersey. First, though, he will focus on the spring classics.

"His first targets are Sanremo, Gent-Wevelgem and perhaps Flanders. The problem is programming the season, taking into account that there is a World Championships [on September 25] that suits the sprinters. An opportunity like this will not come again soon and [national coach] Bettini has already taken this into account. Petacchi would like to race the Giro, but for us it is important he goes to the Tour."

Paolo Bettini's chances of taking Petacchi to the World Championships in Denmark may be derailed. The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) is investigating Petacchi for doping and may issue him a life-time doping ban. He is accused of using synthetic blood Perfluorocarbon (PFC) and human serum albumin in 2009.

"From what he tells us, there is nothing new," said Saronni of the investigation. "So, until proven otherwise, he still has our trust."

Besides Scarponi, Saronni also signed Andrei Kashechkin. Kashechkin, like Scarponi, has served a doping ban and returned to racing one year. He joined Lampre mid-season and formed part of its nine-man Vuelta a España team.

This year Lampre was linked to the Mantova investigation and is now trying to clean its name by working with respected cycling trainer Aldo Sassi at the Mapei Centre. Would it have been better not signing a rider caught blood doping?

"You can say the same for many cyclists. If you decide that certain athletes in cycling should not be given a second chance, and I was among those who have proposed that, then that's fine. But until so, I do not see why other teams can take advantage of it and not us."


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