What’s an 80% killer worth? That’s what Acqua & Sapone team manager Palmiro Masciarelli is trying to figure out.
Is 35 year old Danilo di Luca a rider he thinks can still win a big bike race? After coming back from a two year suspension for EPO-Cera, Di Luca signed a contract with Katusha and did squat, jack, nada result. Before this year’s Giro d’Italia, Di Luca admitted he was at “80 percent” of his level compared to his juiced self of 2009.
He and fellow Italian Filippo Pozzato were non-performers at the Global Russian Cycling Shindig and then-team manager Andre Tchmil was not too thrilled by either one of them. (At one point, Du Luca claimed he was riding for nothing and his results weren’t worth much more.) They’re both gone — Pozzato taking a step down with Farnese Vini Neri Sottoli and Di Luca still searching.
Acqua & Sapone is based in Di Luca’s home region of Abruzzo and the fans there are dying to see the aging playboy riding for their colors. “I can’t deny that we’ve had a lot of pressure from Abruzzese fans to seal these negotiations with Danilo,” Acqua & Sapone’s Masciarelli told Cicloweb.it.
Signing Di Luca is a tempting proposition for any Italian team but everyone knows it’s a roll of the dice. .“There are various situations to be put together, and there’s also the fact that he needs to find himself, and that he needs to make a leap in quality with us in respect to 2011,” said Masciarelli.
Is the un-juiced Di Luca capable of that leap in quality? Did he simply need a year to race himself back into better form after the long suspension? Can his hair styling ever look as fantastic as it once did when he won the 2007 Giro d’Italia? It’s easy to find quality hair care products but sometimes the rocket fuel is not so easy to come by.
Di Luca’s father-in-law Stefano Giuliani, is a directeur sportif with Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli but is now joining Acqua & Sapone next year. Another reason for both team and riders to hammer out a contract.
Still, the question remains: Di Luca turns 36 on January 2nd so how much is an old killer worth?