Saeco-Longoni Sport 2002

Balance and focus to make a great leap forward

By Tim Maloney, European editor

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Directors and riders
Photo: © Sirotti

"We're really pleased about the way Team Saeco-Longoni Sport has take shape for 2002," said team manager Claudio Corti at Saeco-Longoni Sport's team presentation at Milano's Spazio Sironi. "Don't doubt the quality of our top riders Simoni and Di Luca. This year, our objectives are bigger and more ambitious than in the past; with this team we're looking to be protagonists in all the races that count."

Corti went on to say that Simoni's major objective for Team Saeco-Longoni Sport would be the Giro d'Italia, while Danilo Di Luca would get maximum support in his bid for a World Cup title.

They say a new broom sweeps clean and the new look of Saeco-Longoni has already brought home a victory bouquet; Fabio Sacchi won a stage in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under a few weeks ago.

With the departure of "la banda Cipollini", Mario Cipollini's Tuscan mafia to Acqua & Sapone, on paper, the newly focused and well balanced Saeco-Longoni Sport does appear to be able to back up their big ambitions for 2002; the Giro d'Italia and a Classics win. Certainly, Gilberto Simoni is determined to repeat as Giro champion this year (see his interview); and clever Claudio Corti has put in place some key new riders to support Simoni well in any grand tour; climbers like Spaniard Igor Astarloa and Italians Oscar Mason and Leo Piepoli.

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Saeco stars
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Di Luca will have solid support too. He can likely count on excellent single day riders like former Tour of Lombardy winner Mirko Celestino, '99 Italian Champ Toto Commesso, all-rounder Fabio Sacchi and sprinter di casa, Sicilian Biagio Conte.

"For the first time in my career, I will be on a team that rides in all the major classics - and my first big effort will be in Liege-Bastogne-Liege," said a determined Di Luca.

Youth is served well at Saeco-Longoni Sport. Talented '99 World Junior champ Damiano Cunego will pass pro with Saeco-Longoni, joining other young guns like Aussie Brad Davidson, American Justin Spinelli, and lanky Lithuanian Sabaliauskas.

Behind the wheel in the Saeco-Longoni Sport team car will be another new face for 2002; the experienced Beppe Martinelli, who was Marco Pantani's DS for many years on Carrera and Mercatone Uno, but tired of the highly charged atmosphere around Pantani and move to Saeco.

"So far I am quite happy here at Saeco-Longoni Sport," said Martinelli. "I'm back with a strong, motivated team and with Simoni I am sure we'll have a go at the Giro d'Italia. Di Luca has impressed me with his talent and enthusiasm; it's spread throughout the team!"

Saeco-Longoni Sport now heads south from Milano to Terracina, near Rome for a training camp until the season starts in mid-February, where Di Luca will debut in Saeco-Longoni colours in the Tour of the Med (February 13), while Gibo Simoni will wait a week until the Tour of Laigueglia (February ).

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Zampella and Simoni
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But the last word always belongs to the boss, and at Spazio Sironi, Sergio Zappella, president of Saeco Macchine Per Caffe outlined another key goal for his Saeco squad.

"The Giro is certainly the major objective for us this year, but the Tour de France is also interesting and we are simply not going to wait until May 1 (TdF team selection date) to know that we are among the invited teams."

The message was clear: Look for lots of early action from Saeco-Longoni to lock up a TdF invite for 2002.

For more info, check out the Saeco team roster.

Photo's from the team presentation

Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti

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