Casagrande, Pearl of a Steady Market
– Reported by Gazzetta dello Sport –
MILAN, 1 July 2002 – Teams that abandon, sponsors who leave, racers that are always uncertain of their future. It’s a difficult season and one understands that of the cycling market as well, never more stagnant than this early summer, marked by the after effects of the doping instances from the Giro. Other years, same period, the peloton boiled with news heard through the grapevine of transfers and team structures. Now it is a calm plate. Or almost. It’s fresh from the news of the Lotto-Domo merger that will create a single Belgian super team with important racers and ambitions to become one of the top ten international teams. Team manager will be Patrick Lefevere, who has guided in the last two seasons riders such as Museeuw, Vainsteins, and Virenque. Daniele Nardello could interest them, who is one of the riders left without a team as Mapei disappears at the end of the year, imitated by the French team BigMat.
Seen for his ablitities in the northern classics, the ex-Italian champion is also in the sights of US Postal where he would be a valuable addition to George Hincapie. The South African Robbie Hunter and the Hungarian Laslo Bodrogi would be great additions for one-day races and the Tour, so said the teams captain Armstrong. The adios from Mapei puts into play important pawns: Stefano Garzelli, who is expecting a a verdict from the Swiss disciplinaries on his Probenicid case, is in the notebook of Saeco-Longoni Sport, who could also be aiming for Nardello. Telekom, close to the Giro winner Salvoldelli, has made advances to the Australian Cadel Evans. Bettini is moving to Lampre-Daikin, who is dreaming of the two time world champion Freire (like iBanesto.com). But here enters Quick Step into the dance, Mapei’s partner, who could decide to continue, creating a team for 2003 with the king of Liege, Bettini, and the new Belgian champion Tom Steels.
The fat fish if the “Italian” market is obviously Francesco Casagrande. The Tuscan will be leaving Fassa Bortolo, after two bittersweet years, and will be married abroad. First in line for him is the Spanish iBanesto.com, but the French team Cofidis could be making advances to him as well, a team that is also courting another Tuscan, Andrea Tafi. To the Tocconi-Emmegi could go Noи, whose acquisition is at the moment subject to the reconfirmation of Dario Frigo. The winner of Paris-Nice 2001 is asking for an adequate salary (750 million euro per year) and to secure three more riders that are suited for stage races. Alessio has confirmed Caucchioli and has acquired the talented Denis Lunghi. The Acqua & Sapone team of Mario Cipollini will stay with the same skeleton, but is considering two experienced reinforcements in Bramati and Fornaciari.