By Tim Maloney, European editor
Despite finishing the 2001 season with 36 victories and as the number one pro cycling squad in the UCI Rankings, team manager Giancarlo Ferretti is still looking for a major victory that will consolidate Fassa Bortolo place on top of the heap. Fassa Bortolo is a Treviso, Italy based manufacturer of plaster wall covering and paint that only entered the sport in 1999.
"I spent 6 years (racing) with Ferretti and live near him," recounted Italian TV cycling commentator Davide Cassani. "Fassa Bortolo is a team that Ferretti has brought to number one in only two years time, but they are still missing that big win."
60 year old Ferretti, nicknamed 'Feron', is considered perhaps the wisest old wolf in the sport of pro cycling. His 28 years of experience as a team leader enabled him to make some impressive moves in the off season to further build up Fassa Bortolo. With the Giro firing of Dario Frigo and departure of Raimondas Rumsas, Ferretti brought in 8 new riders to bring the team up to 24 athletes for '02.
Ferretti's first choice was his ex-star from the legendary MG Boys-GB team Michele Bartoli, who arrived late last season from Mapei. "I've rediscovered my desire to race in this team", said Bartoli of Fassa Bortolo. "Ferretti knows how to run a close knit team like no one else in the sport. Now it's my turn; I want to win a classic again; San Remo, Flanders or Liege."
Bartoli's terrible accident in '99 and his long, difficult comeback soured his tenure at Mapei and if anyone can inspire Bartoli to return to his mid-'90's greatness, it will be Ferretti. Also joining Fassa Bortolo from Mapei is young talent Rinaldo Nocentini.
With the folding of Liquigas, Ferretti managed to grab the key elements of this mob; time trial monster Serguei Gontchar, up and coming Slovenian Gorazd Stangelj, solid Denis Zanette, and speedy Marco Zanotti. Three time Italian time trial champion Marco Velo will join Fassa Bortolo from Mercatone Uno, with emerging star Swiss Sven Montgomery coming over from LFDJ.
Returning to Fassa Bortolo for 2002 will be key names like Francesco Casagrande, Ivan Basso, Wladimir Belli, Serguei Ivanov, Dimitri Konyshev, Fabio Baldato and Alessandro Petacchi. Casagrande will look to come into form in April for hilly classics like Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but his main focus in '02 will be the Giro d'Italia.
"I had a long talk with Feretti in our training camp (last week) and this year more than ever, I'll go for a win in the Giro", said Casagrande.
With the easier "euro" Giro this year, it might be hard for the fragile, temperamental Tuscan to meet his top objective.
As for Ivan Basso, Feretti is looking for the 24 year old former U23 world champion to have big year in 2002 for Fassa Bortolo. "We considered Ivan our most promising rider; he won a few small races last year despite breaking his collarbone twice."
Basso and Feretti completely changed his upright, awkward position in the off-season and the handsome Jaguar driving pro told Cyclingnews that "I did this to improve my riding and I'm sure that my new (lower and more aero) position is a good move."
Basso is looking for some spring success in the classics, but also says "my dream this year is to get the Yellow Jersey in the early stages of the Tour De France."
On balance, Ferron and his powerful 2002 Fassa Bortolo squad should make a major impact in the spring classics with a resurgent Bartoli. There is still life in the Pisano yet and with Ferron masterminding his moves, Bartoli will likely be competitive once again.
Basso unquestionably is a huge talent but he must put it together this year and make a move to the next level and fulfil his tremendous promise. As for Casagrande, the easier parcours of the 2002 Giro d'Italia may frustrate the terrible Tuscan's ambition to finish in Milano with the Maglia Rosa. But by the 2003 Fassa Bortolo team presentation, expect the big wins to finally come for Ferron & his Fassa boys.
These photos courtesy of Fotoreporter Sirotti
Photos by Roberto Bettini
Stefano Zanatta: Fassa Bortolo direttore sportivo
CN: What are the team objectives for '02?
SZ: " Well, we have strengthened the team this year with Bartoli and Gontchar and otherwise raised the quality of the roster. As Giancarlo (Ferretti) was saying, we are we are looking to win top level, high quality races this year, starting with (Milano) San Remo and the World Cup and races like the Giro d'Italia...we think we have the team to do well in 2002."
Fausto Pinarello: Fassa Bortolo Bike Sponsor
CN: Will there be some new features on your bikes for FB in for '02?
FB: "This year like last year, Fassa Bortolo will ride the Prince. The only change from last year will be that all the riders will have the 'LS' (lighter weight version of the Prince)...last year, some riders used this model in climbing stages and we have made a few technical changes (to the ES) for this year."
Ferretti also talked about some of his other riders at the Fassa Bortolo team presentation; he is known as a man of few but candid words and a team manager that is close to his riders. So to hear Ferretti's frank opinions was interesting:
Wladimir Belli: "Well, he's over 30 and he doesn't win much, but he is always up front; especially in the hard races."
Serguei Gontchar: "A very important addition to our team; he will be a key man in the long time trials this year."
Serguei Ivanov: "Ivanov is the most taciturn rider I have ever had...to get him to talk is hard but to make him go fast isn't. He had a bad crash in Tirreneo-Adriatico and came back to win a stage in the Tour De France. But look for him in Paris-Roubaix this year."
Dimitri Konyshev: "He's really an Italo-Russian now he's been in Italy for so long. Now Konyshev is finishing up his career (36 on Feb 18th) and he must be one of the best athletes I've ever seen in cycling. But it seems to me he's almost always ridden at half-gas and we'll see if we can get him to ride faster this year."
Sven Montgomery: "I was watching him since last year's Tour Of Romandie and the Tour de France and was impressed. I believe we can do some important things with him".
Alessandro Petacchi: "He's one of our best riders; in 2000, he won more races than any other Italian rider (9) and last year he had 5 wins despite a crash. Petacchi is a courageous rider; he is a fast sprinter but he will still go with breakaways."
Gorazd Stangelj: "I really like this riders' style; he has great timing in the races...he's in all the right moves in the last 20-30km and when he wins, he wins strong."
For more info, check out their all new website at www.Fassabortolo.it
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