PEZ: How’s the olive oil business, Dario?
Dario: Quite good, the harvest is in, so now we are starting to sell again.
PEZ: And the new house?
Dario: Progress is slow; we’re concentrating on the vines and the olives at the moment.
PEZ: How were your two seasons at Lotto?
Dario: Let’s say it was ‘OK,’ perhaps it didn’t finish in the best way. At the Tour I was ill and there wasn’t much I could do but try to get to the finish in Paris and recover my health.
PEZ: Lotto highlights?
Dario: The Ruta del Sol, last year, where I won a stage was good; I did a good ride on the Zoncolan in the Giro last year too and I had a good Dauphine this year.
But really, my job wasn’t about results, it was about looking after Cadel – which I wasn’t able to do properly in the Tour, because I was ill.
PEZ: Team ISD?
Dario: The main sponsor is Ukrainian; ISD stands for ‘Industrial Union of Donbass’ the company was founded in 1995 and is one of the world’s biggest steel producers, I think they can produce about ten million tons per year.
They sponsor a lot of sports in the Ukraine – nine, perhaps – and I think that athletes they sponsor won three Olympic medals in Beijing.
They want to ‘do a Rabobank’ and have their name associated with sport for the nation.
Luca Scinto (ten years a pro, four of them with the mighty Mapei squadra) has moved the team up from being a successful amateur operation.
We had another Italian sponsor, but they pulled out due to the economic crisis, the budget decreased, but rather than affect the quality of what we are doing, we will have less riders.
We have already have our Pro Continental licence and have applied to ride the Giro on a wild card; if we get accepted I’m sure there will be no problem getting another big sponsor.
Dario: We have the ex-Italian champion and maglia rosa wearer, Giovanni Visconti from QuickStep; he was Luca’s prodigy, so it’s natural that he should come with the new team.
From Italy, Leonardo Scarselli is with us and Oscar Gatto – he was with Gerolsteiner and is a good sprinter, but never really got the opportunity there.
And strong East European guys like Andriy Grivko (Ukrainian elite TT champion), Sergiy Matveyev (ex Ukrainian elite road champion and world team pursuit champion) and Dimitry Grabovskyy (Ukrainian World U-23 road champion in Madrid, 2005); the English rider, Ian Stannard has joined too.
Mario Cipollini will be an adviser to the team.
PEZ: And your role, Dario?
Dario: I’m one of the oldest riders, picked for my experience; we have 24 and 25 year-olds that need someone experienced in international racing and with bigger teams to show them the way.
I’ll also be team captain on the road, making the decisions that can’t be made from the car. It’s a good role, interesting – I’m looking forward to it. All of the team are based in Tuscany; and of course, Scarselli and I live here.
PEZ: What’s it like for riders with no contract, in Italy?
Dario: It’s the same as in the rest of the world – difficult! Each year we say that it will get better, but each year it doesn’t.
I get the impression – and it’s just a personal opinion – that some managers are using the economic climate as an excuse to take more money from the teams for themselves. They say to the riders; ‘this is all we can pay, take it or leave it!’
And maybe they are not too concerned about the structure and mix of the team, just what they can get away with paying, so there is more money for them.
Dario: It has been wet, so I’ve been on the rollers and going out on my own for a couple of weeks. I don’t like to force things at the start and I prefer to train on my own so as I can ease into things; if you go out with other guys then there can be a lot of jumping around, which I’m not ready for yet.
PEZ: Will you have camps?
Dario: Short ones only; we all live in the same area and will get to know each other quickly because we’ll be getting out together.
PEZ: Is the programme agreed upon, yet?
Dario: It’s too early; we hope that the year will be based around the Giro, if our wild card is accepted.
We will start in Argentina in January with the Giro del Sol San Juan; we have applied to the Tour Down Under and Tour of California and are waiting on answers.
After that we hope to be building the programme around the Giro.
Dario: Specialized bikes with SRAM groupsets.
PEZ: Can Cadel win the Tour?
Dario: Yes, I believe that he can, he’s been close twice, just seconds away. I think he learned a lot from his days in yellow this year; that will be very useful to him for the future.
I think it’s a very hard Tour in 2009 and it will suit him.
Dario: Everyone is free to choose what they do, but I know that he didn’t wake up one day and think; ‘I’ll come back and ride the Tour!’ it’s all been considered and thought through.
He’s a competitive man, but I think if his return increases cancer awareness then it’s a good cause.
Dario: We’re actually coming to visit my aunt, in London for Christmas.
The family doesn’t get the opportunity to meet that often, so Christmas is a good excuse for a party!
We’ll be keeping in touch with Dario as the year progresses – and is it too early to say; ‘Merry Christmas, Dario?’