Saeco and Lampre have both been overlooked for the Pro Tour, but should now gain entry after joining
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE It has been confirmed that the Italian Saeco and Lampre teams, neither of whom have so far been granted entry to the UCI Pro Tour, are to merge next season. The announcement was made on Friday and follows widespread speculation about the link-up. The move will see Gilberto Simoni reunited with the sponsor he left for Saeco in 2002. Outgoing world champion Igor Astarloa is also to renew old acquaintances, returning under the wing of Saeco boss Claudio Corti. Giro d’Italia Damiano Cunego, naturally, will be the team’s other star attraction. While the specifics of the new team have yet to be defined, it is understood that Saeco chief Corti and his Lampre counterpart Giuseppe Saronni will manage the team in tandem. Procycling sources indicate that the existing Saeco outfit will account for around 20 of the 28 available rider berths. Astarloa is Corti’s only true Lampre target in a merger whose motivation is more economic than technical. Having ironed out the terms of their agreement, the new Saeco-Lampre management structure should submit a new application for entry to the Pro Tour in the coming days or, at worst, weeks. The UCI have apparently already received assurances about one sticking point in Saeco’s original bid, the registration of the team in England for tax reasons. A team spokesperson told procycling on Saturday that Saeco had offered UCI guarantees that they would “relocate” to Italy in 2006. That should now prove academic, with the new Lampre-Saeco hybrid set to be based in Italy.