By Jen See
Cannondale Pro Cycling presented its 2013 team in Hollywood on Saturday night. The tuxedo-clad riders did their best James Bond impressions, and while the team has lost its Italian title sponsor Liquigas, Cannondale Pro Cycling retains its Italian verve. The team will look to a talented group of young riders to step up this season.
Peter Sagan is plainly the star of the show. The 22-year-old Slovak won three stages and the Green Jersey at the 2012 Tour de France, and scooped up several top five finishes in the classics. The charismatic Sagan is fast becoming a legend for his mad trials skills on the road bike, and his ability to win just about any race he starts.
“I think Peter is a phenomenon,” said Sagan’s teammate Elia Viviani. “I think this year, Peter, he can take not only one classic, but two classics.” Viviani also would not be surprised if Sagan picked up a podium at still another classic.
While Sagan leads the team for the one-day races, veteran Italian Ivan Basso returns with the goal of riding to a high finish in the Giro d’Italia. He no longer sees himself as the main favorite for victory; that responsibility sits with riders such as Bradley Wiggins, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, and Basso’s former teammate Vincenzo Nibali. Basso will race as an opportunist, looking for his chance to upset one of the favorites.
“I’m the second line,” said Basso of his chances in the Giro d’Italia. “For me, for seven, eight years, in the front line, I have to do the race, I have to control the race, I have to drop everyone. But now, we have Bradley, we have Nibali, we have Froome, Contador, Andy Schleck: Already in the front. And you have to stay in the back.”
Several big talents have left the Green Team. Most notably, Vincenzo Nibali heads to Astana for 2013. The multi-talented Italian finished third overall at the Tour de France, second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and second at Milano-Sanremo. Italian climber Valerio Agnoli follows Nibali to Astana, while super-gregario Sylwester Szmyd heads to the Spanish team Movistar.
In their absence, young riders such as Moreno Moser, Damiano Caruso, and Elia Viviani will have more responsibilities, but also new opportunities. “If I say that the team is as same as last year, you tell me, ‘you are stupid,’” said Basso. “But listen, a big team like this — one of the best teams in the world like this — can rebuild faster and try to jump faster. Some riders go. The most important is the team, not the rider.”
American Ted King also returns to Cannondale for the 2013 season. King is hoping to achieve his long-standing goal of making it to the Tour de France. Last year, a broken collarbone ended his hopes of heading to the Tour start in Liège, much to his disappointment. King, who has finished the Giro d’Italia, has yet to ride the Tour in his career.
“That’s it. Make the Tour, period. I’ve done everything else I’ve wanted to do in the sport,” said King of his 2013 season goals. “I’ve done all the races I want to do. You have to take it a day at a day. You don’t know until you’re on the start line in France.”
Already, the Cannondale riders are off to the races. On Monday, Cannondale will start the Tour de San Luis in Argentina. There are several sprint stages which should suit Sagan and off him the chance to pick off an early season victory. Next week Cannondale will also contest the Tour Down Under, which starts on Tuesday, Australian time.
“This is one of the best teams in the world, because we have a good group to help the good rider become a champion,” said Basso. Young Italian Moser put more succinctly. “I think, it’s a great team. We are cool.”
Photos By Brian Hodes