Italian team director Davide Cassani says the national squad will draft in younger riders and exist 'all year round'
Italy’s national team will change shape over the coming 2015 season, incorporating more Under 23 and junior-level cyclists in professional races
“We want to make a jump in quality,” Director Davide Cassani told national sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“The national team needs to exist year around for the youngsters to gain experience.”
Cassani, with the junior and under directors, identified a group of 30 cyclists that will form Team Italy in professional races at home like Trofeo Laigueglia and Coppi & Bartali.
“We need to get the Under 23 riders and pros racing together,” Cassani added, “because we need to raise the amateur level and improve our youngsters.”
Some Under 23 cyclists will race as part of the national team in January at Argentina’s Tour de San Luis. Davide Ballerini and Simone Consonni will line up with Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF) and maybe Sky’s new Italian, Elia Viviani.
“We need more of an international calendar for our riders, as well. All of the Nations Cups, returning to the Under 23 Paris-Roubaix, and with Filippo Ganna and Edoardo Affini, who was so strong at the Junior Worlds. They will race often with me.”
Cassani’s predecessor, Paolo Bettini proposed changes nearly two years ago. He wanted to incorporate more track, BMX and mountain bike racing for Italy’s amateurs.
“Just think about from where Peter Sagan, Cadel Evans, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins have come from. Let’s learn from them and the other nations,” Bettini said in February 2013. “[In Italy] there’s an ancient mentality, provincial, with the road at the centre of it all.”
The Italian cycling federation (FCI) and Cassani want to follow this path. Italy counts only one covered velodrome in Montichiari, where Cavendish trained for the Ghent Six-Day this month.
“We have to change the way the beginners race, enough racing around the clock tower,” Cassani said.
“We are at the top of stage racing with Vincenzo Nibali. We have Fabio Aru coming up. I look at the numbers: 120 professionals in 2014, 46 of them less than 25 years old. The movement’s happening, but we need to give them time.”