Three-time Italian champion Giovanni Visconti is leaving Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli for Movistar, his move motivated by a wish to join a team with guaranteed entry to cycling’s biggest races. Meanwhile Denmark’s Alex Rasmussen becomes the latest HTC-Highroad rider to find a home for next season, joining Garmin-Cervelo, while Mark Renshaw looks likely to go to Rabobank. The news comes as new Australia-based team GreenEdge announces Dutchman Pieter Weening as its second foreign recruit.
The 28-year-old Visconti heads to Movistar after three years at his current team, winning the Italian national road race championship twice during that period to addd to his 2007 victory, and this year successfully defended his title on Sicily, the island the Turin-born rider's family hails from, in June.
He was stripped of his victory in Stage 17 of this year’s Giro d’Italia when he was adjudged to have pushed fellow breakaway rider Diego Ulissi of Lampre-ISD, to whom the win was eventually awarded, after being adjudged to have pushed his rival on the approach to the line.
Visconti has topped the UCI Europe Tour ranking in each of the past two seasons, and had been linked with a move to Liquigas-Cannondale at the end of last season.
Instead, he decided to stay with Farnese Vini to see if the squad could make the jump up to ProTeam status and thereby guarantee a place in not only the Tour de France but also the big one-day races, but is now resigned to having to move teams in order to target those events.
One potential team mate of Visconti’s at the outfit formerly known as Caisse d’Epargne is 2009 Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde, currently serving a ban after being linked to Operacion Puerto.
The Spanish rider is known to have trained with the Movistar squad, and is likely to return to racing its coliurs next season.
"I believe and hope so,” Visconti told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Valverde is a great raceer and as far as I know a great gentleman. Rivalry? Let’s not joke. No great team has just one main rider. And with me and him I the team I can only have an advantage.”
Garmin-Cervelo’s capture of Rasmussen sees it acquire an accomplished rider on the track. This year, the Dane won the scratch race at the UCI Track World Championships in Apeldoorn, a title he had previously won in 2005. In 2010, he won the rainbow jersey in the Madison and the team pursuit, and he had picked up silver in the latter event when Denmark was beaten by Great Britain in the Beijing Olympics.
On the road, Rasmussen’s victories include this season’s Philadelphia International Championship, and in May he finished second to Garmin-Cervelo’s David Millar in the final day’s time trial of the Giro d’Italia in Milan. The Dane had joined HTC-Highroad this season from Saxo Bank.
Jonathan Vaughters, CEO of Slipstream Sports, said: "Alex is a great talent and we're very excited to bring him to our team in 2012. He's proven that he's versatile rider - he's obviously gifted on the track and he's translated that to the road. He is great in lead outs, he's an exceptional time trialist, and he's developing into a great Classics rider. He'll be a strong addition and we look forward to working with him next year."
Another HTC-Highroad rider, John Degenkolb, hugely impressive in winning two stages of the Criterium du Dauphine in June, is rumoured to be joining Skil-Shimano, although the 22-year-old has confirmed nothing as yet, and there has also been speculation over Mark Cavendish’s leadout man, Mark Renshaw, heading to Rabobank.
The Daily Telegraph said today that Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf had reported that Renshaw and Rabobank had agreed terms; the British paper quoted the Australian rider as saying: "Bob Stapleton doesn't want us to talk about transfers before September 1. It's a bit silly, but that's the way it is. All I can say is that I've been in discussions with Rabobank."
GreenEdge, meanwhile, is starting to take shape, with six riders now confirmed on its roster for 2012. The new outfit has its sights set on securing ProTeam status for its debut season, and to obtain that it will need to have signed some big-name riders – and the ranking points they bring with them – by mid-October.
An attempt last year by another Australian team, Pegasus Sports, to secure a ProTeam license collapsed when its main backer withdrew late on in the process.
GreenEdge’s latest recruit, Weening, joins from Rabobank, where he has raced for the past seven seasons. Aged 30, he spent four days in the maglia rosa at this year’s Giro d’Italia after winning Stage 5 in Orvieto on a day the race passed over the strade bianche of Tuscany.
He won Stage 8 of the 2005 Tour de France by less than a centimetre from fellow escapee Andreas Kloden, and remains the last Dutchman to have won a stage in cycling’s biggest race.
“Being able to win at the two biggest tours in the world doesn’t come by chance, particularly when you look at the quality of the victories across such difficult terrain,” said GreenEdge Cycling General Manager, Shayne Bannan.
“Pieter brings great climbing qualities for our grand tour ambitions and also has plenty to offer in the one day classic, where we’ll be aiming to make a mark.
“A key factor in going after Pieter and getting him to sign with the team is he’s at a great point in his career. He’s been in the professional peloton for eight seasons yet is only 30 years of age. This is the perfect balance of experience while still being his prime.”
Weening, who came up through the Rabobank development squad before turning pro, said that he is eager to have new opportunities.
“As a Dutchman it was a privilege for me to ride for my country’s biggest team and I want to thank Rabobank for the 12 years I had with them and the opportunities they gave me to develop as a rider,” he said.
“But it’s now time for the next stage in my career and joining GreenEdge is a great new opportunity for me to help build a team and pursue my own ambitions.
“I’m also looking forward to being part of a team from Australia, which is one of the most exciting cycling countries in the world. They can’t be producing so many promising young cyclists without doing something right.”
Three of those young talents, Jack Bobridge and brothers Cameron and Travis Meyer have already committed to the squad, all joining from Garmin-Cervelo, alongside one of the country’s most experienced riders, Stuart O’Grady, who arrives from Leopard Trek.
The Australian team's first recruit was Eritrean cyclist Daniel Teklehaymanot, a former stagiaire at Cervelo-TestTeam, the 23-year-old joining from the UCI's Aigle-based World Cycling Center.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.