Comeback riders Sella and d’Amore to lead Androni Giocattoli challenge in Tour de Langkawi
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Comeback riders Sella and d’Amore to lead Androni Giocattoli challenge in Tour de Langkawi

by Shane Stokes at 6:33 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de Langkawi
 
Gianni Savio determined that his riders will once again shine in Malaysian event

Androni GiocattoliDefending champion Jose Rujano may have been expected to lead the Androni Giocattoli team in the 2011 Tour de Langkawi, but the team is now set to be headed by Emanuelle Sella. The 29 year old Italian will be joined by several team-mates in the Malaysian tour, including the promising neo professionals Antonio Santoro (Italy) and Yonnatta Monsalve (Venezuela), plus the sprinter Crescenzo D’Amore.

The latter has been portrayed by team manager Gianni Savio as his “crazy gamble” for 2011, a bet on a rider who had the chance at greatness but never achieved his potential. He won the junior world road race championship in 1997, competed with teams such as Mapei and Acqua & Sapone and was runner-up in the Intergiro competition in the 2004 Giro d’Italia. However he retired in 2007, disillusioned with the sport.

Now he’s back and Savio is excited to see what he can do. “He is a 31-year-old kid who won the junior worlds in 1997 and has not raced for three seasons. He went pro young with Mapei and that early debut may have hurt him. Then he had personal problems, physical problems, lack of motivation. When I heard from a dear friend that he wanted to try, I gave him a chance.

“He has already lost four kilograms in two months. He is determined. That is precisely the hallmark of Androni.”

Emanuele SellaSavio is also giving a chance to Sella, who took time out of the sport for different reasons. He won three stages in the 2008 Giro d’Italia, showing unexpected flair in the high mountains, but then tested positive for CERA and was handed a suspension. He cooperated with authorities and got a reduced ban, returning last season with the Carmiooro – NGC team and netting third in the Tour of Austria and fifth in the Italian national championships.

Now he is moving to the Androni Giocattoli team, and Savio believes he deserves an opportunity to redeem himself. “We hope that he can follow the path of Michele Scarponi, who is joining Lampre for next year after finishing fourth at the Giro d’Italia with us,” he said. “Both have encountered problems with doping, they have paid and we consider it fair to give them a second chance.

“We’ll bring two neo-professionals: Antonio Santoro from Italy and Yonnatta Monsalve from Venezuela. Those two riders bring me back to the 1989 when I gave a chance to Andrea Tafi and Leonardo Sierra, also an Italian and a Venezuelan who reached the highest performances in cycling later on.”

Santoro has the build of a pure climber, being 1.65 metres tall and just 53 kilos, but isn’t sure what to expect. He’s determined, but also doesn’t want to promise too much too soon.

“Professional cycling is a new world for me”, he said. “I’ll discover it with a lot of respect. A win for my debut would almost be too much.” Still, he’ll try to do something impressive.

Savio’s teams have a very strong history in the race. The first participation was with the Colombian-registered Aguardiente-Nectar squad in 2000, the riders winning stage two with Jamie Drew in 2000 and taking third overall with Fortunato Baliani.

Four victories followed under the backing of the Selle Italia sponsor, with Hernan Dario Munoz triumphing in 2002, Freddy Gonzalez in 2004, Ruslan Ivanov in 2008 and José Serpa in 2009. Rujano was second overall in 2004, the year when he went on to win two stages and net third overall in the Giro d’Italia.

His riders also hold the record for the most stage wins on the prestigious Genting Highlands climb; Munoz triumphed in 2002 and 2003, Ruber Marin took the honours one year later, and then Serpa won in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

Back after a break:

Savio is a very regular sight on the race and takes pride in how his riders perform there. However he had to pass over the chance to chase more success there last March, as the later date of the race meant that there was a clash with other races on his calendar. In his absence, former Selle Italia competitor Rujano won with the ISD-Neri team.

“It’s was a heartbreak in my 2010 cycling season to not be able to show up in Malaysia, the same way as I miss attending the races in Colombia”, he said, referring to the South American country whose national team he used to direct.

“Malaysian fans have known us mostly under the name of Colombia-Selle Italia and Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni, I hope they’ll quickly become familiar with Androni as well. This is the continuity of the same team. Although we’ll bring riders who are all new to Le Tour de Langkawi, the identity of the team remains unchanged. We’ll come with determination and the intention to perform and honour the event.”

Mohamed Salleh, CEO of the Tour de Langkawi, is confident that Savio’s usual success will be seen once again. “We’re sure that Androni will come with a highly competitive squad”, he said. “Above all we’ll be happy to welcome Gianni Savio back to Malaysia. Among all cycling team managers, he’s probably the strongest supporter of our event.”

The 2011 edition will once again be ranked 2.HC on the UCI’s calendar. It will begin on the island of Langkawi on January 23rd and will run to February 1st, covering ten stages and 1315.4 kilometres in that time.

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