The boys in blue 'fess up
By Jeff Jones
The Fassa Bortolo team has been a "surprise package" of 2000. For a brand new division I team to challenge the likes of Telekom and Mapei at the top of the UCI rankings (they finished 3rd last year) is an impressive performance and one that they will no doubt be building on this season.
At the team launch on January 20, team manager Giancarlo Feretti said: "The team has as its main target the Giro d'Italia," words that were echoed by new signing (and world number one) Francesco Casagrande. Cyclingnews.com asked several riders in the Fassa Bortolo team what they thought, starting with Alessandro Petacchi.
CN: What is your own opinion of the team's results in 2000? Were you surprised at finishing so high up on the UCI team rankings at the end of the year?
AP: Of course, for a first year it was very good for us to finish 3rd, it's more than a positive result.
CN: What role did you play in the team (stage race rider, classics rider, sprinter, domestique etc.)?
AP: In Ferretti's Team we all have our chance. In the Team everybody has to work a lot for the others but when you are feeling good you always can have your chance. Last year I worked a lot for the Team, I helped Konychev to win a stage at the Giro and the Team in every occasion. Then, I won in Luxembourg and in France, at the Route du Sud. At the Vuelta, I was also feeling good, Baldato and Belli worked a lot for me and I won two stages.
CN: Were you pleased with your own results this year? What did you rate as your best ride?
AP: Yes, if they said me before I will be the Italian with most victories this year I wouldn't have believed it, it's incredible. I was really happy with my victory in Il Giro della provincia di Lucca because it was in Tuscany, at home, with all my family and friends to see me. But the Vuelta was surely the most prestigious of the victories I had, so it's my best win this year.
CN: Were there any big disappointments for you?
AP: I didn't have any big disappointments this year, it was a very good time for me.
CN: Have you determined your program for 2001 yet? What races will you be targetted at?
AP: I have to be strong at the beginning of the season. I will ride the first races in Belgium. I don't race the Giro but do the Tour. I have to change level of quality in my victories, to win maybe less races but more prestigious wins, like Sanremo.
CN: How do you find the team atmosphere and what is it like working with Giancarlo Ferretti?
AP: Wonderful! Ferretti knows how to create a compact group. He speaks a lot with us, he is very attentive towards the riders to motivate them. We enjoy giving the best of ourselves because he always gives his best every time.
CN: What do you think of the new arrivals in the team for 2001?
AP: We are a stronger Team now with Casagrande, Ivanov, Basso. All good riders so it's a very good thing.
CN: It seems as though Mapei, Telekom, Fassa Bortolo and Domo-Farm Frites will be the top teams at the beginning of 2001. How high can the team go?
AP: It would be good if we win the Giro, it's one of our main targets, then to be good at the Tour and win CDM [World Cup] races.
As mentioned, the biggest signing for the team was Francesco Casagrande, who came painfully close to winning the Giro d'Italia last year. Casagrande also placed second in the Giro di Lombardia, the final World Cup race of the season. He was beaten by a cunning Raimondas Rumsas who is already a member of Fassa Bortolo.
CN: What impressed you the most about the team that persuaded you to join?
FC: I hold Ferretti in high esteem so I wanted to work with him. But it was most important to have a big Team with me at the Giro. With Belli, Frigo and Fincato, I will have a strong Team dedicated to the overall victory in the Giro.
CN: You have already stated your goals for 2001 (Giro, World Cup). Are any of the other two Grand Tours on your program?
FC: My target is the Giro and I will concentrate on this. At the Tour, the Team will go with other riders such as Petacchi, Baldato, Basso and Rumsas for the general classification. The Vuelta this year is not on the Team program.
CN: Do you have an early season goal, or is it just all preparation until the Classics?
FC: I'd like to be competitive at the end of April to be good at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, my favorite classic in the spring. But the first six months of the season will be all focussed on the Giro.
CN: How important is the world number one ranking to you?
FC: It's very important because it doesn't seem that you are the best, but that you are the more consistent, right through from February to October. I'm very proud of it but it's not all...to win the Giro would be better...
Finally, Luxembourg's cyclist of the year, Kim Kirchen will ride as a neo-pro for Fassa Bortolo in 2001. Although he already has some experience in professional races, the jump from division III to the top of division I will be quite large.
CN: You raced in 2000 for De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa (division III team). How did you get noticed for Fassa Bortolo?
KK: Stefano Zanatta was my Team Manager at De Nardi two years ago. Before the 2000 Giro, Ferretti called me and asked me if I wanted to go with him. I wannted to ride the Under 23 World Championship so I signed, before the Giro, for the 2001 season.
CN: Your program for 2001? How many racing days are planned?
KK: I begin at Donoratico on the 4th of february, then Haut Var and Classic Haribo. In Belgium Het Volk and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. Maybe about 45 days I will ride until June 17th (after the Tour of Luxembourg).
CN: What are your thoughts about riding in division I?
KK: It's really great, I didn't think it was possible...I hope to stay there!
CN: How do you feel about being Luxembourg's rider of the year?
KK: It's good, I'm motivated because now I am more popular in my own country. It's quite important there to be the Sportive of the year.
CN: Are there any other good young Luxembourgish riders that we should look out for?
KK: We have five professional, five good young riders. Then there is also Frank Schlazk at De Nardi, who is 2 years younger than me and he finished 9th at the European Championship, and 16th at the World Championship. He's a good climber, I think he will be a good one.