Love him or hate him, you have to admire the pure hustle and energy of Mauro Gianetti as he tries to keep his ex-Geox cycling team afloat.
Time after time he has pulled a sponsoring rabbit out of a hat. When he ran Saunier Duval, his sponsors fled after his climbers Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli failed drug tests at the 2008 Tour de France.
Gianetti disavowed all knowledge of bad things with syringes and didn’t miss a beat. He still managed to keep the team going in 2009 and 2010 by securing money from Fuji and Servetto. Then later the reincarnation became Footon-Servetto-Fuji — and they still rode the Tour de france that year. That’s right, he knows how to hustle Tour boss Christian Prudhomme, too.
When Footon-Servetto died, once again Gianetti scrounged around and made five hundred phone calls and begged and pleaded and cajoled and convinced Italian shoe company Geox, and TMC, a multinational company that develops electric transformers with cast resin windings.
That’s impressive. How many of us could walk into a boardroom of a company that makes electric transformers and sell them on a cycling team? “Hey, fellas, love the cast resin stuff. Listen, I got this team of bike racers and …” Somehow, someway, this guy gets people to take out a pen and guarantee the bank funds.
When Geox pulled the plug on the team at the last moment, Gianetti was off and running again looking for sponsors. Such is his fund raising brilliance that even as the cycling media proclaimed the team dead, Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo still stuck by Gianetti instead of bolting for another team like teammate Denis Menchov is doing with Katusha.
Gianetti is an old-school closer like the guys in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. The man is unstoppable, a force of nature, a bald-headed whirlwind, a steely-eyed corporate pick-pocket. He is the bicycle sponsor thief.
In any case, now Gianetti is flying all over the world and Venezuela in particular. Talk about crazy dreams! He’s almost got the Venezuelan Tourist Board “dreams” campaign ready to come on board. He’s even suckered the president of the country, Hugo Chavez, in on the deal. In fact, the G-man claims he’s got two sponsors ready to pump new blood into his dying squad. That green blood, not the Operacion Puerto stuff.
If HTC-Highroad’s Bob Stapleton had half the hustle that Gianetti radiates, Bob’s team would still be in business. Clearly, Gianetti can sell anything — doped cycling teams, poison girl scout cookies, gastric stapling with staples from Home Depot, defective parachutes — you name it.
Sure, he’s a lingering, won’t go-away symbol of cycling’s dark, doped past but hey, let’s give him some props. The man knows how to keep a cycling team alive. A Venezuelan-style chapeau for Mr. MG.