The Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project have officially announced their first 4 signings other than the Schleck brothers today. The guys coming over from Saxo Bank have not been confirmed officially by Nygaard in the press but will most likely be soon.
The 4 that were announced were Daniele Bennati, Davide Vigano, Giacomo Nizzolo and Bruno Pires
Some dets on the flip about this and more!...
The first two names there are quite known and Benna was all ready "confirmed" before this announcement so he will obviously be bringing a hair gel sponsor to the team. Vigano had a pretty disappointing year with SKY after moving from Fuji-Servetto, filled with a lot of DNF's and "meh" results. Both riders are looking for a re-birth of sorts.
The other two signings are...interesting. Nizzolo has been a decent rider on the Italian amateur circuit the last couple of years after showing his promise on the track as a junior with a bronze medal in the team pursuit (with Elia Viviani, the late season standout from Liquigas). One day racing seems to be his thing with some strong results this year in the GP Liberazione (biggest one-day amateur race in Italy) with a 9th place and finishing 5th in the European Championships, beating strong young riders like Kump, Navardauskas and Robert in the sprint for 3rd.
Pires is definitely the strangest signing here. He is going to be 30 years old next year and he has barely raced outside of the Iberian Peninsula. Most of his strong results have come from Portuguese races like the Trofeo Joaquim Agostinho and the Volta a Portugal and in 2006 he was the Portuguese National Champion. He was apart of the LA-MSS team when the crap hit the fan in 2008 when the police raided the offices of the team and searched the homes of the riders and found drugs and various medicines and equipment to perform blood transfusions with, you can read an article here. This year, Pires hasn't done much in only a handful of races though he did place high in Castilla y Leon in March with a 13th overall place so he could be a valuable mountains rider for the Schlecks.
In other transfer news, Verandas Willems-Accent is starting to boost their roster for a move up to the Pro Continental ranks. After Matthais Russ and Dominik Roels announced their retirements from cycling, Wim De Vocht found a home with the new team along with Arnoud Van Groen, former T-Mobile rider Bram Schmitz and "that other Luxembourg guy" and cyclocross racer Jempy Drucker. The team has also signed South African wunderkind Jaco Venter, ex-Landbouwkrediet Steve Caethoven and Belgian amatuer champion, former hockey player and owner of the biggest thighs in cycling Rob "Don't f- with me or I'll cross check you into the barriers" Goris.
Saxo Bank signed Mads Christensen, the former Danish prodigy turned burnout who fell through the ranks after signing with Quick Step in '05, Barloworld to Design Kokken all the way to becoming an amateur in '08. He has since got his groove back on smaller Danish squads. This signing will do nothing but help Riis' popularity in Denmark. Just to give you the extent of his freefall, he won the elite Madison, Pursuit and Team pursuit titles at only 17, was 2nd in the U23 L-B-L and 3rd in U23 Worlds in '04. To give you an idea of how strong that U23 Worlds was, look at this top 8 from that year...
1 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Bielorussia) 4.33.33 (38.823 km/h)
2 Thomas Dekker (Netherlands) 1.01
3 Mads Christensen (Denmark) 1.02
4 Domenico Pozzovivo (Italy) 1.09
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) 1.30
6 Matti Breschel (Denmark) 1.38
7 Giovanni Visconti (Italy)
8 Marc De Maar (Netherlands) 1.41
He has talent and hopefully Riis' can do one of his repair jobs on him to get him back up to where he was projected to be: classics star.