PETALING JAYA: Defending overall team champions Selle Italia-Seramenti Diquigiovanni have promised to give another explosive performance in the Tour of Langkawi, which begins on Friday.
The Venezuela-based team will go into the Tour on a high after winning three stages of the Vuelta Tachira race at home two weeks ago.
Selle Italia are the most successful team in the Tour’s history thus far – having won the overall individual title through Gabriele Missaglia (1998), Hernan Dario Munoz (2002) and Freddy Gonzalez (2004).
For their challenge this time, they have made a change to the initial squad named last month and Missaglia, who finished third last year, has been replaced by another Italian climber, Wladimir Belli.
Team manager Gianni Savio said that their main general classification rider would again be Colombian Jose Serpa, who won two stages last year (Tapah-Kuala Selangor and Genting Highlands).
“He will return with a target to win the overall title,” said Savio.
Completing the cast for the Pro Continental outfit are 2005 Colombian national champion Walter Pedraza, another promising Colombian climber Fabio Duarte and two sprinters – Italian Alberto Loddo and Venezuelan Anthony Brea.
“Whether Brea makes the team for the Tour of Langkawi depends on whether he can get his passport in time. If he can’t make it, we will replace him with Sergio Barbero,” said Savio.
“We will be racing against five Pro Tour teams but I don’t see a problem here. We raced against 20 Pro Tour teams in the Giro d’Italia and still managed to produce some good results.”
A record five Pro Tour teams are in the fray – French sides Bouygues Telecom, Credit Agricole, Francaise des Jeux and AG2R (Fra) and Sweden’s Unibet.com.
Besides Selle Italia, the other Pro Continental sides are Tinkoff Credit Systems (Ita), Panaria (Ita), Skil-Shimano (Ned) and Slipstream (US).