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"I have always been very confident that we were going to have a strong team. We have always had experienced riders like Constantino Zaballa and Stefan Schumacher," sports director Bo Hamburger says.










30.01.2014 @ 14:00 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

After failing to sign Chris Horner, the Danish continental team Christina Watches-Kuma will strengthen the team considerably for the 2014 season and will have a distinct Italian flavour. With the addition of new sponsor Kuma, the team have signed three major Italian riders Mattia Gavazzi, Enrico Rossi, and Fortunato Baliani as well as two Italian sports directors Alberto Elli and Eddy Serri.


The ambitious Danish continental team Christian Watches-Kuma continue their rise in the world of cycling by adding considerable firepower to the 2014 roster. In addition to three new Italian riders with plenty of experience, the team has strengthened its financial basis with the addition of co-sponsor Kuma.


CyclingQuotes has learnt that the team will announce their new financial backer at a press conference which will take place 14.00 local time at the team's headquarters in Herning. With the Italian sponsor comes a clear Italian flavour as the team have signed both Italian riders and sports directors.


Controversial sprinter

Most notably, the team have added sprinter Mattia Gavazzi to their roster. The Italian sprinter has had a turbulent past and recently parted ways with the Androni-Venezuela team due to "personal reasons and technical differences".


As a promising young sprinter, Gavazzi tested positive for cocaine at the 2010 Settimana Lombarda while riding for the Colnago CSF Inox team. He had previously used the drug as a junior and already tested positive for a first time in 2004. On that occasion, he served a 14-month ban and completed a rehabilitation plan.


In 2010, he told La Gazzetta dello Sport that a part of him was glad that he had tested positive.


“The positive set me free in a way,” he said. “I was telling all sorts of lies. All the mistakes were my fault, no one forced me to use it, even if in my area it is easy to meet the wrong people.”


The second positive led to a two-and-a-half-year ban but upon completion he was given a new chance by Androni manager Gianni Savio. By winning the Giro della Toscana, a stage in the Tour de San Luis - where he beat Peter Sagan in an uphill sprint - and a stage in the smaller Romanian Sibiu Tour, indications were that he was back to his best. He drew headlines at the Giro d'Italia when he was thrown out of the race for holding onto a team car, desperately wanting to make it to the final sprint stage in his home town of Brescia.


It came as a surprise to many that he parted ways with Androni who at first refused to elaborate further on the reasons. Savio has later told Ciclismo Internacional that Gavazzi demanded a guarantee of being included on the Giro d'Italia roster.


By joining continental team Christina Watches-Kuma, it is now guaranteed that he will not do the Italian grand tour. However, he will be the team's marquee sprinter, taking over the role from veteran Angelo Furlan who retired at the end of last season.


Riccardo Ricco's brother-in-law joins the team

In the sprints, Gavazzi will be supported by another fast finisher Enrico Rossi who will join Christina Watches-Kuma from the continental Meridiana-Kamen team. Like Gavazzi, Rossi has a turbulent past.


In 2010, he was the leading sprinter on the Ceramica Flaminia team but was arrested by Italian police in doping raids in Perugia. At the time, it was reported that a hypoxic tent was seized and the Italian saw his career come to a temporary end.


Rossi was never banned for his possible misdemeanours and returned to competition in 2012 with the controversial Meridiana-Kamen team which had earlier tried to sign Riccardo Ricco. In fact, Rossi is Ricco's brother-in-law, being the brother of Vania Rossi who is Ricco's partner and herself a professional bike rider. In 2010, an A sample from her was declared positive for EPO but when the B sample came back negative, she escaped suspension.


A veteran climber will end his career in Denmark

The final rider to join Christina Watches-Kuma is 39-year-old Fortunato Baliani who, contrary to earlier reports, will ride a full season before ending his career. The Italian climber was once known as one of the strongest riders on the Ceramica Panaria-Navigare team and finished in the top 3 in the mountains classification in the 2001, 2006 and 2007 Giri d'Italia, without ever winning the coveted tunic.


He did the Giro 8 times, with his best performance coming in 2008 when he finished 3rd on a stage and 12th on GC. After the doping scandal involving Emanuele Sella, however, the team shifted its focus to younger riders. It has since developed into the Bardiani-CSF team, and this left Baliani without a team. He has since been riding at the lower continental level with Miche and most recently Team Nippo, in its various guises as D'Angelo & Antenucci-Nippo, Team Nippo and Nippo-De Rosa.


He has continued to deliver strong performances, winning the overall Tours of Kumano and Japan twice and beating some of the world's best climbers in the 2011 Brixia Tour.


"I have always been very confident that we were going to have a strong team," sports director Bo Hamburger told CyclingQuotes. "We have always had experienced riders like Constantino Zaballa and Stefan Schumacher."


New sports directors

In addition to the three riders, the team has signed Italian sports directors and ex-professionals Alberto Elli and Eddy Serri. Both have already worked with Baliani last year at Nippo-De Rosa, and Serri rode his last season as a professional in 2009 for the Meridiana-Kalev Chocolate Team. It was sponsored by the same company as Meridiana-Kamen, Enrico Rossi's team for the two past years. Mattia Gavazzi rode for Kio Ene-Tonazzo-DMT in 2007, where he had Elli as sports director.


The Danish continental team was originally set up to provide a path back to the top level for former Danish star Michael Rasmussen. The Dane has since admitted to doping and ended his career but the team still has an ambition of moving up to pro continental level and ultimately do a grand tour.


The squad was in the headlines earlier this month when it emerged that they had been in advanced negotiations with Chris Horner but the deal never became reality, with the Vuelta champion instead signing with Lampre-Merida.


Continued focus on Danish riders

Hamburger insists that the team will still have a clear focus on Danish riders.


"We have some very interesting Danish riders and they have my full attention," he said. "It is important to me that they will have good conditions and will continue to grow. This is a reinforcement, not a weakening. The Danes will get support from some experienced riders.


"We will now have a better race schedule than originally planned and we will also be strengthened at an organizational level. Now I am not necessarily the one who will be in charge of all our races abroad."


The team had also intended to sign Francesco Reda who started the 2013 season very strongly for Androni-Venezuela. However, his career came into uncertainty when it was announced that he had missed an anti-doping control, with his team putting him on inactive status for most of the season.


The UCI required them to lift the suspension and he did some races at the end of the season. Yesterday he was, however, handed a two-year suspension and so he will not be part of the 2014 Christina Watches-Kuma team.


Another notable addition to the team is 2007 U23 Worlds bronze medalist Jonathan Bellis who has ridden for Saxo Bank in the past but who had his career put on hold when he was involved in a traffic accident that left him in a coma for a long time.


Christina Watches-Kuma 2014
Mattia Gavazzi
Enrico Rossi
Fortunato Baliani
Stefan Schumacher
Jonathan Bellis
Jake Tanner
Constantino Zaballa
Alexander Kamp
Asbjørn Kragh Andersen
Emil Wang
Jimmi Sørensen
Jonas Poulsen
Marc Christian Garby
Sebastian Forke



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