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  • 09.11.15

    Yellow Fluo

    Colin O'Brien's award-nominated feature on the cost of doping at the Italian squad

    Paolo Ciaberta

This was supposed to be a very different story. After following Neri Sottoli, formerly Vini Fantini, for a year, this was supposed to be about a small team putting the pieces back together after an annus horribilis.

They'd all been dragged through the mud, seen their hard work undone and had to watch helplessly while what little financial backing they had withered away overnight. They'd almost lost everything because of the parochial demands of a myopic sponsor and the selfish actions of two riders, but they'd started again, and looked the stronger for it. This was one story, I thought, where I'd get to write a happy ending.

And then another selfish rider decided he'd like to try some EPO.

Back in February 2014, things looked rather more hopeful. Sitting in a closed hotel in Tuscany that the team was using as a training base, Matteo Rabottini seemed relaxed, even though at that point, the future was far from certain. In the wake of the doping scandals involving Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio at the 2013 Giro d'Italia, they still needed to find a sponsor.

Racing cyclists, sat on bikes, fluorescent yellow kit, Team Yellow Fluo, pic: Paolo Ciaberta

“Now everything is okay, everything's calm. We've begun again, after a season that didn't go the way any of us wanted. But it's important to start over.

“My objective remains the same: to do well at the Giro. That's the race that anointed me, that gave me visibility, brought me to everyone's attention. That is always my primary objective, but I won't hide the fact that this season I want to be stronger, because in respect to other years I'm in better condition. I want to try do well.

“I’ve been with Luca [Scinto] for four years now so the relationship is good. One of friendship and respect. This is a team where you feel well, that's why I wanted to stay. It helps because with a team like this, you always arrive at your important goals feeling tranquil.

“Absolutely, I see a change compared to the past. Even if I've only been racing at this level for a few years, these days you can see cycling is changing and getting better.”

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