Androni Giocattoli to transform into Venezuelan WorldTour team?

Gianni Savio aims to transform Androni Giocattoli into a national Venezuela-backed first division team by 2016.

“That’s the challenge,” Savio told Cycling Weekly. “Of course, it’s going to depend on me how much the Venezuela government gives!”

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The white-haired and always-smiling Italian enters his 30th season as manager next season. He guided Colombian Nélson Rodríguez to a stage win in the 1994 Tour de France, raced Colombian and Venezuelan teams and won the Italian Cup four times.

He continues to challenge himself. He wants to gain enough points and financial backing to continue in the second division next year and to earn a first division spot by 2016. Cycling’s plans for an overhaul, he said, partly spurs his challenge.

“From what I’ve heard, cycling will only have 16 first division teams and eight second division teams. Our goal is to be one of those eight in 2015,” Savio added. “Right now there are 16 teams, so it’s going to be cut in half.”

Savio’s Italy-registered Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela team dominates at home. Thanks to topping the second division teams in the Italian Cup it earned an automatic invitation to the Giro d’Italia. With this year’s win, Savio knows Androni will start his country’s biggest stage race on May 9 in Belfast.

The team is a mix of mostly Italians and South Americans. He said that he can depend on his riders to perform but is at the mercy of sponsors to reach his 2016 goal.

“I get about half or 60% [of a €2.5m budget] from my two main sponsors, the rest comes from the other sponsors such as Sidermec, Tre Colli and Bianchi,” Savio said.

“We are going to keep going with the Venezuela government to hopefully go into the first division by 2016. With our plan it’s clear that we are going to need an investment of millions. Venezuela knows that.”

He said that in theory Venezuela would become the teams name and money would come directly from the government or country-controlled companies. The team could look similar to Claudio Corti’s second division team, called Colombia and essentially a national team. It receives funding from the sports minister and consists entirely of Colombian riders.

Savio said that Corti’s team is a good comparison to his planned project. He added that Venezuela already has his plans that he will meet with government officials to discuss a budget.

“I’m not guaranteeing anything will happen. We just need to wait and see,” Savio said. “Even with the money and riders, cycling’s governing body, the UCI, will have to decide who races in the first and second division.”