Last year CT, this year PT. Not a lot of teams have done this before, so we are very happy to have achieved this feat. As announced before, Bacardi will continue to be the main sponsor of the team. The new secondary namesponsor is Ignis; an Italian home appliances manufracturer. Because of this, we have decided to register the team in Italy. Other sponsors include; Campagnolo, Colnago, Nalini and Giro.
The black, red and the bat remain. The green has been replaced by white. A clean design with good visibility from the air. Big thanks to designer Michiucf.
Evgeni Sokolov - € 50.000 Francesco Reda - € 50.000 Tom Thill - € 50.000 Cédric Hervé - € 50.000 Mathieu Perget - € 50.000 Aurélien Passeron - € 50.000 Maxim Gourov - € 50.000 Jure Kocjan - € 50.000 Aidis Kruopis - € 50.000 Artur Gajek - € 50.000 Aleksandr Kuchinski - € 50.000 Tomislav Danculovic - € 50.000 Francesco José Pacheco - € 50.000 Julian David Muñoz Giraldo - € 50.000 Andrés Miguel Díaz Corrales - € 50.000 Julien El Fares - € 50.000 (On loan)
Salvatore Mancuso - € 50.000
First Volta oa Algarve, Stage 2 - Jean-Patrik Nazon
Tour Meditteraneen, Stage 5 - Matthew Goss
Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Stage 2 - Kim Kirchen
Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Stage 3 - Kim Kirchen
Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Stage 4 - Kim Kirchen
Giro del Trentino, Stage 4 - Riccardo Ricco
Euskal Bizikleta, Stage 3 - Kim Kirchen
Tour of Luxembourg, Stage 1 - Kim Kirchen
Tour of Luxembourg, Stage 5 - Kim Kirchen
Tour of the Channel Islands, Stage 2 - Jure Kocjan
Vuelta a Burgos, Stage 1 - Jean-Patrik Nazon
Tour of Ireland, Stage 3 - Matthew Goss
Circuit Franco-Belge, Stage 3 - Matthew Goss
Circuit Franco-Belge, Stage 4 - Matthew Goss
Second Giro del Trentino, Stage 2 - Riccardo Ricco
Euskal Bizikleta, Stage 4 - Kim Kirchen
Bayern Rundfahrt, Stage 3 - Arthur Gajek
Tour of Luxembourg, Stage 4 - Kim Kirchen
Criterium du Dauphine Libere, Stage 5 - Riccardo Ricco - PT
Tour of the Channel Islands, Stage 2 - Francesco José Pacheco
Tour of the Channel Islands, Stage 4 - Francesco José Pacheco
Third Volta oa Algarve, Stage 5 - Mathieu Perget
Tour Meditteraneen, Stage 5 - Kim Kirchen
Corsica International, Stage 2 - Jure Kocjan
Tour of Luxembourg, Stage 2 - Kim Kirchen
Tour of Luxembourg, Stage 3 - Julien El Fares
Criterium du Dauphine Libere, Stage 7 - Riccardo Ricco - PT
Tour of the Channel Islands, Stage 4 - Jure Kocjan
Vuelta a Burgos, Stage 4 - Riccardo Ricco
Tour of Ireland, Stage 1 - Matthew Goss
First Vuelta a Castilla y Leon - Kim Kirchen
Giro del Trentino - Riccardo Ricco
Tour of the Channel Islands - Jure Kocjan
Circuit Franco-Belge - Matthew Goss
Second Euskal Bizikleta - Kim Kirchen
Tour of Luxembourg - Kim Kirchen
Tour of the Channel Islands - Francesco José Pacheco
Third Tour of Ireland - Matthew Goss
4th - 10th Vuelta a Burgos - Riccardo Ricco - 4th
Corsica International - Riccardo Ricco - 5th
La Tropicale Amissa Bongo - Gediminas Bagdonas - 5th
Tour Meditteraneen - Matthew Goss - 5th
Criterium du Dauphine Libere - Riccardo Ricco - 6th - PT
Circuit Franco-Belge - Artur Gajek - 7th
KBC De Panne Tour - Aidis Kruopis - 8th
Tour of Luxembourg - Julien El Fares - 8th
Tour of the Channel Islands - Gediminas Bagdonas - 8th
Tour Meditteraneen - Kim Kirchen - 9th
Tour of Luxembourg - Gatis Smukulis - 10th
Tour of the Channel Islands - Aidis Kruopis - 10th
First Clasica de Almeria - Matthew Goss
Subida al Naranca - Kim Kirchen
Tre Valli Varesine - Riccardo Ricco
Urkiola Igoera - Riccardo Ricco
Vattenfall Classics - Matthew Goss
Milano - Torino - Riccardo Ricco
Giro dell'Emilia - Riccardo Ricco
Second Transfagarasan GP - Riccardo Ricco
Third Philadelphia International Classic - Riccardo Ricco
4th - 10th Profronde van Drenthe - Kim Kirchen - 4th
San Sebastian Classic - Riccardo Ricco - 4th
Giro di Lago di Garda - Riccardo Ricco - 5th
Giro dell'Emilia - Kim Kirchen - 6th
La Poly Normande - Matthew Goss - 7th
First Corsica International - Riccardo Ricco - Points
Vuelta a Castilla y Leon - Kim Kirchen - Points
Vuelta a Castilla y Leon - Kim Kirchen - KoM
Giro del Trentino - Riccardo Ricco - Points
Giro del Trentino - Riccardo Ricco - KoM
Euskal Bizikleta - Kim Kirchen - Points
Tour of Luxembourg - Kim Kirchen - Points
Criterium du Dauphine Libere - Riccardo Ricco - KoM - PT
Tour of the Channel Islands - Jure Kocjan - Points
From CT to PT. It's a lot of difference, and our team will have to change if we want to stay in the highest ranks. Our team will turn more Italian, but we'll keep some of those outside influences.
Our 3 undisputed leaders this season: Ricco, Goss and Kirchen will get their contracts renewed. Other's who'll get a new contract are: Smukulis, Perget, Sokolov, Mancuso, Kruopis, Bagdonas, Kocjan and Thill. Those are close to certain. While we will keep Thill, he isn't fully ready for the PT, he'll probably be loaned out to a CT team. Most riders will be available though, if the right offer comes along. One rider isn't though, Ricco. Don't even ask, he's staying.
We would like to thank all the other riders for their services last season. But due to aging or just disappointing performances, they won't be coming to the PT. Especially a big thanks to Nazon, who gave us our first ever win. He'll be remembered.
A lot of spots open up. We'll probably contract a few Italians, but it's most likely that the Italian base of the teams will be youngsters. There may not be to many, but we'll prepare ourself. One Italian has caught our eye already though; Guarnieri. A rider we are very interested in. We're also interested in a few Belgians; Van Avermaet and Vantomme. That'll be it for now, we won't announce our biggest target(s) just yet. They're free agents though.
Considering that he got 1 mill free (since he promoted), I see it as quite likely.
My guess is that Kirchen and Goss will be sold, then Benatti and Cunego will take the place, with the rest (if anything left) will be used for helpers.
Considering the Gazzetta team that will be a team with a good chanse to end high, but not win (I belive) since it will be too many races with noone to score points. Still I see Ricco-Cunego-Benatti as a stronger trio than Rogers-Cunego-Benatti (this years leader trio for Gazzetta)
People, who mentioned anything about Cunego and Bennati?
But to go further into the debate, a lot will depend on the outcome of the wages. Ricco's wage will probably vary between 800-900k. Bennati won't go higher then 600k, or someone isn't being to bright. Cunego, 1mil - 1.3mil. Around 2.8mil for those 3. Leaves 700k, which only buys you 14 minimum waged riders. Not possible in that case (which are very likely numbers).
So, instead of everyone jumping to conclusions; i'll be keeping Ricco and Goss, and then get Cunego, simple, no? But really, i haven't mentioned Cunego anywhere.
Today, we finally came to agreements with our sponsors over the most important races this season. Our first year in the PT, so we're starting off easier then we did last year, to ensure that most sponsors are satisfied. We've also gotten a small list from the sponsors where a nice performance could hand us a bonus.
First goal, and it's a hard one. We have to win the GP Liechtenstein. It's the only mountainous classic in the PT this year, and is sure to be heavily contested by the best climbers in the world. Ricco is among those best climbers, but we hope that some PT teams lose track of him after a year in the CT. Still, Ricco will need an excellent day to actually come out on top.
This is our most important goal of the season; top 3 in the Giro d'Italia! Ricco has already done this before, so we hope he can do it again. Who knows, maybe even do better then top 3?
Another Italian race, this time a monument. We need a top 10 in the Giro di Lombardia, the season closer. Another feat Ricco has already achieved. The race is more of a lottery though. A harder race will favor us, although Ricco is also able to win a sprint from a smaller group of riders.
La Doyenne, we need a top 10 here. Ricco has won the race before, but you're never sure, with a lot of new classy hilly riders in the PT. A few Belgians have a bonus here, but a lot of riders are here to challenge.
Lastly, the sponsors also expect us to finish with the best 10 teams in the world. A goal certainly achievable, which was proven last year by Sony and Jack Wolfskin. We'll need to build out our team though to achieve this.
Next our list with other important races; The other Italian monument, Milan San Remo. Another Ardenne classic, La Fleche Wallone. 2 Swiss races; GP Mendrisio and the Tour de Suisse. Last but not least: Tirreno-Adriatico.
After the off-season, where most riders went on a well deserved vacation and sponsor contracts were signed, it's almost time for the 2012 racing to begin. Before that, however, there will be renewals and transfers. We have just finished the renewals and are anxiously awaiting the transfer season!
We reported beforehand that we wanted to re-sign the following riders: Ricco, Goss, Kirchen, Smukulis, Bagdonas, Kocjan, Kruopis, Mancuso, Sokolov, Perget and Thill. We succeeded in renewing 9 of those names. That means that in total 13 riders will be leaving our team.
In the first round of the renewals, 6 riders accepted our offer; Bagdonas, Kruopis, Mancuso, Perget, Sokolov and Thill. We hadn't come to an agreement with our 3 big guns from last year though. Still 2 rounds left.
In the second round, only one rider accepted our offer, but i couldn't care less, as Il Cobra, Riccardo Ricco, would wear our colors for another year! He'll be our undisputed leader again.
That left one more round of negotiations left to renew Goss, Kirchen, Smukulis and Kocjan. As Goss was an important part of our team last year, and will most likely be as well in the upcoming year, i agreed to give him his demanded wage. Kirchen came with a high demand, after having an amazing season last year. But he's getting older, and won't be getting any better, so we didn't comply with his demands. In the end, Kirchen chose us over the money and also renewed his contract.
As i said in the beginning, 9 of the 11 riders offered a contract renewed. That means we didn't come to an agreement with Smukulis and Kocjan. We just couldn't offer the wage they demanded, with the upcoming transfer season in the back of our head. We would like to thank both of them for their services and hope they'll be happy where ever they end up.
So, we now have to sign 11 more riders for next season. We certainly need a rider for the cobbles and would also like another stage racer. Another rider who we would like to sign is Tyler Butterfield, the only Bermudan racing on an international level. We have decided to hold our biggest targets for ourselves; the transfer will make it all clear.
We are going to ride in the PT this season, and that means we had to change the roster. Ricco will stay or absolute leader, as already decided beforehand. However, Kirchen isn't as strong as he used to be, and has left the team. Goss will also be riding in different colors next year. This is what happened.
Last year, our first transfer was Kirchen & Goss coming over from Jack Wolfskin. This transfer made us promote at the end of the season. So we decided to make a bit on Michael Van Staeyen, another Jack Wolfskin rider. We offered them €1.000.000, and they accepted. Michael Van Staeyen had a mediocre as Jack Wolfskin names it. However, we believe in the capabilities of the young Belgian. After all, he did win 2 stages at last year's Tour de France, not an easy feat. His wage is €270.500, a good wage for a rider of his quality. He'll be our leaders in the sprint after the transfer of Goss.
After Van Staeyen, we stayed in the Benelux and also another 24 year old. His name is Martijn Keizer, one of the upcoming stage racers. Although he has already developed nicely, with some specialized training, he can become a very good stage racer. His original team, Nestlé Cycling Team, knew the value of these rider, but we pushed hard to get him, eventually paying €1.750.000. His wage is at €478.000. A pretty expensive deal, but like mentioned before, he still has a lot of room to grow, and he's only 24 years old.
A lot of money spend, so we also had to get some money the other way. Unfortunately that involved selling Kim Kirchen. Kim is in good hands though, as Jayco - Red Bull payed €500.000 for him. He was our second succesfull rider and believe that he can help Jayco in achieving their goals. We wish them both good luck!
Our other Luxembourgian, Tom Thill, will also not ride for us next season. He hasn't been sold though, he has been loaned out to Focused Cycling. The young time-trialer needs to get some more experience before being able to compete on the highest level. We hope he learns a lot and he gets some good results for Focused Cycling.
A team isn't made out of leaders alone though. Even the best need help. next time we'll present our newest domestiques!