Gianni Savio, the charismatic manager of Androni Giocattoli, denies he’s explored options to sign Chris Horner for the 2014 season.
With Horner still looking for a ride after winning the Vuelta a España this year, some wondered if the ageless American would fit into Savio’s squad, one of the top-ranked Pro Continental teams in Europe.
Savio said he would love to sign a rider of Horner’s caliber, but admitted he simply doesn’t have deep enough pockets.
“I have had no contact with Horner, because I have a very limited budget,” Savio told VeloNews. “I don’t have the money to offer a champion like Horner.”
Savio has built a franchise of sorts of signing promising, largely unknown riders, and veteran riders coming off injuries or racing bans. Last week, however, Savio told VeloNews he is no longer in the business of signing riders coming off bans.
Instead, he’s building up a platoon of promising young talent, with a goal of developing a major team with the backing of the Venezuelan government. He hopes to reach the UCI WorldTour level within the next few years.
And despite picking up veteran riders such as Johnny Hoogerland and Kenny Van Hummel, Savio said he simply cannot afford a rider of Horner’s stature.
“My budget is only 2.5 million euros, so you can understand why I cannot sign a rider like Horner,” Savio continued. “I have to be realistic.”
Horner, meanwhile, has not publicly revealed where he will be riding next season. After negotiations broke down with RadioShack-Leopard (Trek Factory Team for 2014) and then the collapse of the Fernando Alonso project, the Vuelta champion has been holding out for an offer from a WorldTour-level team.
As 2013 comes to a close, some speculated that Savio’s team could be a perfect spot for Horner, at least for the 2014 season, where he would be guaranteed to start the Giro d’Italia.
“Of course Horner could win the Giro!” Savio said. “A rider like Horner, a rider that I really respect and admire, is not part of our philosophy. We are a team a young riders, and we have a lot of confidence in the youth to build a strong structure for the future.”
Horner, who turned 42 this fall, said he wants to race at least two more seasons at the top level.
Horner’s asking price was reportedly around 1 million euros per season, a number that did not fit into Trek’s plans.
Savio said he’s confident Horner would find a ride with a top team; it just won’t be his.
“With our limited budget, I couldn’t offer Horner what he wants, or I would spend half my budget!” Savio said. “I think Horner will end up going with a big team. Maybe he won’t be receiving what he’s asking for in negotiations, but he will receive a good offer from a top team.”
Savio said his team is already full for 2014, with 18 riders. The squad debuts at the Tour de San Luís in January, and will have an expanded racing program in northern Europe thanks to the arrival of Hoogerland and Van Hummel.
The Giro remains the top goal, and Savio’s troops are already guaranteed a spot at the start line in Belfast on May 9.