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Giro Squadre: Who's Who (or What)

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Giro-main_small_mediumThe yearly rundown of teams, what they're up to, and whether you should pay much attention to them. Let's do this alphabetically... with a little help from our friend. Oh, and this isn't the GC preview, per se. Ursula covered that already. And speaking of teams, we have live threads ready to go for tomorrow's gala team presentation.

Acqua e Sapone

GC Ambitions: It would be a slight exaggeration to call the next three weeks this team's season -- for Italian teams ever desperate to please the home crowd, the only dull months are July and August, and since the country is flooded with sweaty tourists, it's just as well. But with Stefano Garzelli heading up the team for the last 35 years you can always count on them to keep an eye on how the overall is shaping up, and how their aerodynamically coiffed leader's legs are working. The 2000 Giro Champion, one of four former winners on hand, will have the Flying Masciarellis to help in the mountains.

Fallback Plan: Garzelli is always good for a stage win, as soon as the maglia rosa slips away. After that... lots of long attacks.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Sub-optimal. The bubble design looks like something in a toy store, and Francesco Failli could play a wayward ronin in a samurai film.

Podicci's Verdict: Minor players. "How can you not love Garzelli? I mean, he's been racing for 15 years and he's almost never been convicted of anything!"

AG2R

GC Ambitions: Tadej Valjavec is always good for a top ten run. Um... whoops!

Fallback Plan: Hey, they're a French team racing in Italy, falling back on anonymity shouldn't make them too uncomfortable. It's all about July for this pretty-decent squad. For now, look for Alex Efimkin to hang around in the KOM comp.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Oy. After sporting one of my favorite kits in the peloton for 18 months, AG2R sold their fashion cred down the road for ... brown shorts. I refuse to go on.

Podicci's Verdict: Tourists. "Everyone always says Sebastian Hinault isn't related to Bernard. How do we know? Has anyone tried getting him drunk and asking him about road protests?"

Androni Giocatolli Etc

GC Ambitions: Oh, they have ambitions. Look for the endlessly named ones to place more riders in the top 50 than any other team. Michele Scarponi is the leader, Jose Serpa is the quiet challenger, and one or two of the Berts (Bertagnolli, Bertollini, Bertogliati) will add to the list of unexciting respectability.

Fallback Plan: They have infinite stage-win power. This isn't a great squad, but it's very deep. Alberto Loddo is a dark horse sprinter, but mostly it's about Scarponi, Serpa and the Berts -- quality guys who fall just far enough out of real GC contention to go for stages. Oh, and they might surprise at the TTT too.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? With every sponsor's name squeezed in someplace their kit looks like a frickin eye chart. "Cover your left eye and tell me the name of the second sponsor from the bottom." Also, leaving helmet-haired Francesco Ginanni off the roster is a real shame. Not awful, but a missed opportunity.

Podicci's Verdict: Ubiquitous Meh-ness. "Is 'umehquity' a word?"

Astana

GC Ambitions: Do they ever lack GC ambitions? This year they may even chase the Grand Tour Triple Play, if Alexander Vinokourov's run of form carries on. Vino's curious path in life naturally now brings him to the Giro -- a race he's never done before, as far as I can tell... and yet after minimal appearances on the Boot Vino has spent two-thirds of his current season in Italia, including a telling win in the Giro del Trentino days before his Liege triumph. Hey, maybe he's looking for a more forgiving crowd. Anyway, surrounded by seasoned pros and unburdened with any expectations in July apart from helping Alberto Contador, Vino absolutely cannot be overlooked for the maglia rosa. It's not a great parcours for him though.

Fallback Plan: No obvious stage threats around to distract them from Mission Vin-possible, but Astana have been eating people's lunches lately by sending guys aggressively up the road. When I see Gasparotto, Tiralongo, Grivko and co on the roster, I think of cagey stage wins. Starting with the TTT.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Dear god no. Being the national team of Kazakhstan means a lifetime of racing in their pajamas, and a lot of bad Eastern European hair styles.

Podicci's Verdict: Major Players! "Note to self: when creating the next European superteam, remember to flirt with losing your top guy for most of the winter, then screw up your UCI paperwork, then sign a hastily-dumped sprinter... and watch the wins start pouring in."

BBox Bweeg

GC Ambitions: Zip. Thomas Voeckler likes to putter around Italy in May to get fit for the Tour. That's it.

Fallback Plan: William Bonnet typifies the approach of a top French team to the Giro: he sets foot in Italy about twice a year, at most, and doesn't usually come home with points. He'd be their stage threat if he cared.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Nobody will confuse the Vendee region with the Champs Elysees.

Podicci's Verdict: Tourists. "Sometimes I wonder if these French squads are just on a lengthy, well-disguised Nutella run. It adds up."

BMC

GC Ambitions: Cadel Evans comes in as a top favorite, clad in rainbow and with his fans willing him on to challenge for that first elusive (and realistic) grand tour win. He has a very young team around him, apart from Jeff Louder!* and Florian Stalder, but then Evans has never really counted on a ton of team support. Anyway, apart from inexperience BMC bring plenty of talent. It's hard to know where Santambrogio is at after being left out of the team for a few weeks, but this is his terrain. [* I don't know if he's a Soundgarden fan, but I am, and "louder" just needs a ! at the end.]

Fallback Plan: Everyone loves stage wins, I guess. Once Santambrogio gets back in the flow, he should be seen in the action on occasion.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Hey, they own the world's most beautiful jersey, right? As for the rest of the team... yeah, OK, I like them.

Podicci's Verdict: Major Players! "If Cadel wins will he take the kids out for gelato afterwards?"

Caisse d'Epargne

GC Ambitions: Oh, for sure. I mean, if you eliminate the top nine riders from last year's Giro you'd have two guys on the podium. Unfortunately, I don't think this course is good for Marzio Bruseghin, nor do I see any reason why David Arroyo will get much beyond his customary tenth place.

Fallback Plan: Unleashing Rigoberto Uran's reign of terror! OK, it's probably still a bit early for that. Lastras is a cagey vet from the Banesto days. Kiryenko hangs around the odd climb. Meh.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Solid. They have more than their share of shaggy Iberian hairstyles to go with the classic black kit.

Podicci's Verdict: Pretenders. "The best way to avoid having your Giro chances shattered by bizarre luck again is to not bring a strong team in the first place."

Cervelo Test Team

GC Ambitions: Big time. Carlos Sastre is another foreign vet with a huge pedigree whose presence at the Giro is hard to ignore. In past years he hasn't always shown full commitment to winning in Italy, but then he's almost always had the Tour bug, or the duty to defend his title last year, holding him back. For the first time he just might decide he's got nothing to lose by going all-out in Italy, over a course that suits him very, very well. Whether he will risk his summer by doing so is the only real question.

Fallback Plan: Mostly veteran team of helper dudes probably won't avert their attention from the maglia rosa long enough to contemplate any other goals.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? With Ted King on hand, I would expect nothing less than a strong fashion presence. Internationally beloved kits are a good start.

Podicci's Verdict: Major Players! "Sastre finished third in the last Giro and the first two are out. Birds may suck at math, but..."

Cofidis

GC Ambitions: Gah! Last time David Moncoutie scored points in Italy was 2004.

Fallback Plan: Leo Duque should be heard from in a sprint or two, though he hasn't raced the Giro in four years.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Nobody's senses should be too offended.

Podicci's Verdict: Tourists. "You wouldn't notice these guys at the Giro if they raced with child safety flags attached to their seatstays."

Colnago-CSF Inox

GC Ambitions: No doubt about it. Domenico Pozzovivo is looking to make the leap to A-list challenger this year, after missing the Giro in 2009 when his CSF team was excluded for corrupting the 2008 race (cue Captain Renaud "shocked!" routine). Pozzovivo is the lone survivor of the old CSF juggernaut when he teamed with Sella and Baliani to light up some of the nastier climbs. As a smaller team, Colnago probably won't be counted on for much peloton leadership, so Pozzovivo can chase his dreams in relative peace. He comes into the race on fire. Pretty solid bet for the top five, if not higher.

Fallback Plan: Sacha Modolo has a decent sprint, finishing 4th in MSR -- not a bad way for a 22-year-old to introduce himself to the top circuit. Pozzovivo could also hunt for stages if something goes terribly awry early on.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Is this not the Giro di Tragedia? First there are all the stops commemorating painful memories, capped off with the trip to L'Aquila. Now there's the changeover from the awesome lime-green kit with the orange barber pole armwarmers to the blandest piece of garbage I have... no, I can't go on. It's too terrible.

Podicci's Verdict: Players. "Another heartwarming story of an Italian team with offshore registration coming back from a slew of doping scandals to Giro glory!"

Footon Servetto

GC Ambitions: Zip, zero zilch. Another incredibly young team sent over from elsewhere in Europe to get in some miles and taste from the Grand Tour life. Giampaolo Cheula (30) plays the chaperone.

Fallback Plan: Try not to get made fun of so much for their kits.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? See fallback plan.

Podicci's Verdict: Tourists. "If they do well will Cheula take them kit shopping?"

Garmin Transitions

GC Ambitions: Doubtful. Word is that they plan to go hard for the first week but unless someone (Millar? CVV? Martin?) has the jersey, they will likely focus on stages for the latter portion of the race.

Fallback Plan: Stages, duh. Weren't you listening? Tyler Farrar is... don't get me started, unless you want to see words like "crush" and "Greipel" in a sentence. Sminer has taunted me enough for now. But Farrar is trucking the large leadout. Just sayin. Oh, and they are already talking up the TTT.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Pretty solid. The kit is fine, Millar dresses well, and Farrar's style is more Europe than Wenatchee these days. Not sure it's a priority, and Transitions is a troubling presence (coughgrandpacough), but nobody should be put off.

Podicci's Verdict: Stage hunters. "Is this post going to be over soon? I could use a herring."

Lampre Farnese Vini

GC Ambitions: Egad, the Cunego-Simoni thing again? Of course, much has changed since 2006: the two waged a pitched battle for the last few spots of the top 20 last year. That tends to take some of the sting out of the Team of Rivals concept. Given how ridiculously hard this race is, it's pretty easy to picture these guys suffering in harmony.

Fallback Plan: Much as I like Farrar, a part of me can't wait for this "battle for second-best sprinter" to be settled rather decisively by the old master of Giro stage victories, Alessandro Petacchi. He doesn't seem to be on any great form, but that shouldn't matter, he always answers the bell. Oh, and add Danilo Hondo to your list of guys who you maybe didn't want to see ever again that might win a stage or three.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? There's only room for one quintessentially Italian team in the fashion rankings. See the next entry.

Podicci's Verdict: Minor Jersey Players. "In addition to the traditional points comp, isn't there a best sprinter competition this year? Or a best Italian sprinter competition? Or a best sea-level Italian sprinter?"

Liquigas Doimo

GC Ambitions: A bit up in the air, depending on where either Basso or Nibali are in their preparations for the Giro. Basso says he's behind, but that's gotta be sandbagging. Nibali, on the other hand, was pulled away from his ATOC plans at the last second. Nevertheless, this is a maglia rosa squad, whether they can pull it off or not.

Fallback Plan: Nothing. Bennati is staying home with yet another injury. Daniel Oss and Peter Sagan, who've been lighting up Europe so far in their young careers, are being held back. It's Basso, Nibali and their helpers.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Dripping with it. Literally in some cases.

Podicci's Verdict: Major Players. "I don't see how a guy can win the Giro d'Italia when they literally call him off the beach the week before."

Omega Pharma Lotto

GC Ambitions: All centered around Phillippe Gilbert and... what? He's not racing? Wait, are you sure about that?

Fallback Plan: Stages. Daniel Moreno is usually pretty competent at the Vuelta, but I would expect him to ditch the GC in his first Giro for some nice, juicy uphill attacks. With nobody worrying about him, his stage prospects are good.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Keep in mind this is a Belgian team. Don't be too rough.

Podicci's Verdict: Tourists. "Right, after his 15th last year it's time to hold Jurgen Van Den Broeck back for the Tour."

Quick Step

GC Ambitions: Um, you did see what team we're talking about, right?

Fallback Plan: Stages! Wouter Weylandt needs to do something right for his Quick Step career to continue, and no time like the present.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Keep in mind this is a Belgian team. The fact that they're sending all their Italians doesn't really change much.

Podicci's Verdict: Tourists. "Right, because his 13th in last year's Giro means it's time to hold Kevin Seeldraeyers back for the Tour."

Rabobank

GC Ambitions: No Menchov, no party. With the race starting in Amsterdam Rabo have to go all in for some stage performances anyway.

Fallback Plan: Like I said... stages. And the sooner, the better. Freire's exclusion is a big blow, leaving only Graeme Brown for the sprints in Utrecht and Middelberg. Mollema will look to show something on the big slopes, maybe even go for the Young Rider comp (there is one, right?)

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? It is what it is. They're a well-groomed lot, at least.

Podicci's Verdict: Tourists. "Right, because after 6th in the Vuelta and DNF in July it's time to hold back Robert Gesink for the Tour. No, really, it is. What?"

Sky Professional Cycling Team LLC

GC Ambitions: Bollocks. I'd fancy seeing Wiggo have a proper go at it, but at the end of the day they'd get a right duffing in the press if he were knackered for the Tour.

Fallback Plan: I'd be gobsmacked if they didn't take the fag end here and go for lots of stage attacks. Look for Sutton, Henderson and Hayman in the mashups, while Froome and the Italians try to nick an odd stage.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Fancy it. I've taken the piss out of the silver back look, but in the light of day they're no punters here.

Podicci's Verdict: Bangers and mash. "What the hell just happened?"

Team HTC-Columbia

GC Ambitions: Always a sensitive subject. How does the world's winningest team keep coming to grand tours with nobody threatening for the overall? I know the answer, of course -- you can't be great at everything all the time -- but it seems wrong to leave them out of the biggest conversations of the year.

Fallback Plan: VN is running an interview with Andre Greipel (long, unedited transcripts at VN now?) which declares it safe to say that the German is arguably the second best sprinter in the world. I agree: it's safe to say there will be arguments. Maybe with Greip and Farrar and Petacchi all squaring off, we might finally get to the bottom of this argument. Looking fwd to the annual TTT dustup with Garmin, of course.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Oh, I dunno. They're slicker this year, IMHO, with HTC in and the green piping added. Of course, if that color is chosen with July in mind, it's a bit premature.

Podicci's Verdict: Stage hunters/points comp. "If Greipel starts winning sprints, does he make obscene gestures at his detractors?"

Team Katusha

GC Ambitions: Unclear. Vlad Karpets was 13th in the Tour last year, which could turn into a real Giro threat, but his strength is more in the cronos than the long climbs. In general I could see him on a Giro podium, but this doesn't feel like his year.

Fallback Plan: All Pippo, all the time. OK, McEwen too. Anyway, stages.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? In an odd way, I'm for it. Guys like Karpets take that Eastern European look to a more fun, grungy level.

Podicci's Verdict: Pretenders. "'Only God can judge me'? Has he not heard of the Podium Cafe?"

Team Milram

GC Ambitions: Sneaky strong -- Linus Gerdemann finally gets a chance to show off his climbing skills, freed of the need to do much against the watch or against superior, more battle-hardened competition. Well, not entirely, but it's not like he has to chase down Contador and the Schlecks. On the other hand, he's completed just two grand tours, and however great he may look one day on the highest ascents, it's possible he is better suited to races of 9 days or less.

Fallback Plan: Stages. Forster and Wegmann will animate some finishes, albeit in a tough crowd. Gerdemann could go stage-hunting if his GC hopes fade early on. Or go for mountain points.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? MOOOOOO! At this point, everyone loves the cow kit. Right?

Podicci's Verdict: Contenders. "You can fault Milram for not lining up all their ducks for the Giro, but name another team on this list that's done everything right in preparing?"

Team Saxo Bank

GC Ambitions: Sadly no. That's what July is for.

Fallback Plan: Stages. Haedo can poach the odd sprint. Gustav Larsson should win the first and/or last ITT. Otherwise... meh.

Minipodicci_mediumFashion Sense? Ya, sure. But the grade goes way up if they add back in the contour lines.

Podicci's Verdict: Tourists. "Is Riis afraid that if he sends Fabian Cancellara to Italy, they'll never let him leave?"