MILAN (VN) — Claudio Corti and Team Colombia are interested in the veteran services of Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez, and are waiting for the Spaniard to resolve his contract situation with the failed Euskaltel-Euskadi team.
“Clearly, he’s an interesting rider for us because he’s experienced and speaks the same language,” Corti told VeloNews. “At this point, though, it’s all theory because he still has a two-year deal with Euskaltel.”
The long-time Italian team manager spoke with VeloNews on Monday as he prepared his bags for a trip to Bogotá via Madrid. Corti travels to Colombia five times a year to meet with the team’s sponsors, including the Ministry for Sports, and to scout new talent.
Sánchez is without a team for 2014 after Euskaltel shuttered and a deal with Formula One star Fernando Alonso fell apart in late September. The 14-year professional has two years remaining on his contract with Euskaltel and told Ciclismointernacional.com recently that he was negotiating the termination of the deal.
Corti would not say, but Sánchez may be a topic of conversation when he meets with Colombian sports minister Andrés Botero this week. The 35-year-old Spaniard’s palmares includes the 2008 Olympic title, the Tour de France’s mountains classification, the Vuelta al País Vasco stage race. He could offer Corti’s escarabajos the experience he has gained since turning professional in 2000.
Team Colombia started in 2012 as a vehicle to help young riders from the Andean nation to Europe. Bringing Sánchez into the mix could accelerate the learning curve.
“Bringing the Colombians up to a high level will take time. They need to race and build experience. Clearly, if you add in an experienced rider it moves things along at a faster pace,” Corti said. “We want to help these riders improve and grow. You can’t take a rider from Colombia who’s never raced at the international level and win the Giro. You need that experience of racing and being in big teams. If these guys have someone like that near them then they improve faster.”
Corti listed Leonardo Duque as an example. The Colombian signed with Corti last year after seven years with Cofidis. Earlier this year, Corti said that if budget allowed, he would sign a rider like Rigoberto Urán, second overall in the Giro d’Italia. Urán instead left Sky for Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
“The idea is to bring in a private sponsor or two, probably a Colombian one, to help the budget. If that doesn’t happen next year, it could happen in the following year,” Corti said in May. “With a bigger budget, we can do both: help the younger cyclist and also have proven cyclists that can immediately give the team results.”
Even without the bigger budget, Corti may have his chance. Sánchez signed a contract with Euskaltel through 2015 before the team announced it would disband at year’s end. He is negotiating to leave, presumably receiving money as part of a buy-out deal, so that he can sign with a new team and race in 2014.
With cycling’s current team crisis, however, his choices are limited. Currently it appears that only two second division teams have space for the Spanish star: Belgium’s Wanty and Colombia. Corti’s team speaks the language and appears the better fit, but it must wait on Sánchez.