By Gregor Brown
Max Sciandri says that he is 'honoured' to take over Italy's famed national team. The Italian cycling federation nominated Sciandri for the post, and should appoint him later this month as Paolo Bettini's successor to head up the road squad.
"How can you not be honoured? People have been coming up to me and saying 'complementi' and 'congratulazioni' and whatever," Sciandri told Cycling Weekly.
"You can't really say no to it. I'm 46 now, I had a massive experience with the British team, running the academy or even helping with the pros at BMC Racing... I couldn't be any more ready than not to take on this mission."
Sciandri switched nationalities during his racing career, taking British citizenship in 1995 thanks to his English-born mother. He competed in the 1996 Olympics for Great Britain and went on to help run the Academy near his home in Quarrata in Tuscany.
Mark Cavendish established base nearby as well as Sciandri's BMC Racing charges, Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney. After seven years with the Academy, Sciandri joined the BMC Racing team as a sports director in 2011.
Sciandri is highly appreciated.
"Last year," Phinney said, "he won the most races out of all of our sports directors."
The pull of Italy's famous Squadra Azzurra is too strong, however.
Sciandri works in part-time basis this year despite having just re-signed with BMC Racing for three years, through to the end of 2015. Federation president, Renato Di Rocco wants him to take on the Italian men's team to free up Bettini. Bettini will take on a managerial role that oversees all the disciplines, specifically working with the juniors.
"If we don't have pros who are winning," continued Sciandri, "then we have to stop and look down in the amateur world and say, 'OK, why are they not coming through?' And we have to take it to the junior level and ask, 'What's happening there? Are they racing too much?'"
This year the road World Championships take place in Sciandri's backyard, in Florence. He already started meeting with teams and creating a long list of riders he would like to be ready.
After the Giro d'Italia this May, Sciandri will devote more of his attention to the national role.
"You can't do it all in a month's time, that goes against the philosophy," Sciandri said. "They said that I'd work for free or for only a month, but this job starts now or even a month ago. You have to build up relationships with the teams and riders. They have to know me; I have to know them, that's how you build a team. You just don't assemble it in the last minute."
Max Sciandri to be employed as director for Italian national team
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