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Cannondale’s crop yields road racing gems

MILAN (VN) — Cannondale’s success with Peter Sagan came thanks to diligent recruitment and scouting. General manager Roberto Amadio said that is the team’s secret and that he has more diamonds in the rough.

“That’s our secret,” Amadio told VeloNews. “If you look, we’ve been the youngest WorldTour team for two years. It’s very significant; it shows that we invest in the young riders.”

Sports Director Stefano Zanatta discovered Sagan at the 2008 mountain bike world championships in Italy. The team signed him and allowed him to race another year in the amateur ranks and continue mountain biking before debuting the 19-year-old at the 2010 Santos Tour Down Under.

Sagan has dominated since. As reported yesterday, the Italian team may have a hard time keeping hold of him when his contract expires at the end of 2014. Fortunately, its antennas are up and collecting information on the next potential stars.

“But you don’t find a Sagan every day!” Amadio added.

“Zanatta and the others go out, follow and monitor the amateurs, the juniors … We work with the sports directors in the amateur teams so that we have a connection and see how they are progressing from 18-year-olds and onwards. We are going to keep on doing that. It’s important, and it also gives us a lot of satisfaction to see one of our picks develop and reach the top.”

Amadio referred to Roman Kreuziger and Vincenzo Nibali, both now with other teams. “Nibali joined from Fassa Bortolo, rode seven years with us and reached some big goals: won the Vuelta a España, third in the Giro d’Italia, the eighth and third at Tour de France. He won the Giro this year with Astana but he took advantage of the work and programming he did in his years with us.”

For 2014, Cannondale signed four promising talents: Slovenian Matej Mohoric, who won the Under-23 world title in September, and Italians Alberto Bettiol, Davide Formolo, and Davide Villella.

“Villella already raced as a stagiaire this year. In the Tour of Colorado, he made it in some good escapes. He was third in the Coppa Sabatini and in Giro dell’Emilia – hard races with the pros – so he’s already showed a certain level of maturity,” Amadio added. “Clearly, we have to work with them like we’ve done with Nibali, Kreuziger, Sagan … all the youngsters we had.”

Those four neo-pros should come on slowly like an Italian red wine. Others should already be mature and ready for the 2014 season. Amadio named Moreno Moser, Daniele Ratto, and Damiano Caruso. “They’ve been here for three or four years,” he said. “I’m confident they’ll make the next step.”

Instead of Paolo Slongo, Sebastian Weber joins from teams Highroad and Katusha for 2014. Along with two helpers, the German sports scientist will look after Amadio’s roster. Who knows, maybe Cannondale will produce another gem from its collection.