Saunier Duval Team Launch 2008 and the squad has changed a little from last season – the team is made up of 26 riders, and one of its distinctive features will be it’s youth: there will be no less than nine men under 24 years of age, and thus the team will be the second youngest in the ProTour peloton. The second distinctive feature of the team this season will be improved training: two personal trainers have been hired: Sergio Gelati, who worked with the team in 2007, and José Antonio de Paz, a Professor at the Sport & Physical Activity School of the prestigious University of Leon.

VeloVeritas travelled to Granada in Andalucia to meet the team and get behind the scenes.

Both my breasts ROTTED AWAY” screams the headline in the ‘Chat’ magazine the woman next to me is reading on the plane.  Cycling journalists have it tough. The worst we can say is; “Rasmussen sent home” or “Russell in trouble with cycling authorities, again.

Anyway, ¡Hola! from Granada.

It’s Saunier Duval training camp time again. Last year we were down on the coast at Estepona with David Millar, Iban Mayo and Gilberto Simoni; this year we’re high up in Granada. Two of the three mentioned above have ‘moved on up,’ whilst old Iban is in “guilty or innocent limbo”. Riccardo Riccò is the star attraction and Leonardo Piepoli probably has mountain stage win or two left in him.

Saunier Duval Team Launch
A famous icon: the Veterano bull.

The drive up from Malaga was uneventful, I said ‘hello’ to the Veterano bull and headed inland.

My eyes, used to the eternal grey gloom of a Kirkcaldy winter, had to be protected by shades; the sun just seemed so bright.

Granada sits high-up, the dual carriageway twists and climbs out of Malaga before settling into a rolling rhythm through the hills, neat rows of olive trees stretch as far as the eye can see and the car computer said 14 degrees, a tad warmer than back in wind blown and semi-submerged Scotia.

I stopped at services on the outskirts of Granada, grabbed a café con leche, bought a map and within 15 minutes, I was at the hotel M. A. Nazaries.

As five star hotels with central atriums and roof-top Jacuzzis go, it’s nothing special. Mrs. McGlumpher’s B & B at Girvan this April just won’t be like this, I know it.

Saunier Duval Team Launch
The team trucks are mighty impressive.

Saunier are here in full effect – both the team trucks are here, and a wheen of cars but not the bus.

The first face I recognised was Riccardo Riccò’s, hes had a great season, top and tailed by being ‘in at the kill’ at San Remo and Lombardy. As with so many riders, off the bike he doesn’t merit a second glance – that was one thing about Cipollini, he had an aura and it was obvious he was special.

Saunier Duval Team Launch
Ed noticed Ricardo, interviewed him, but didn’t warm to the man. Just something about him…

Riccardo just merges-in to the background; he’s not anonymous on the bike though and his attacking style will win him plenty of fans.

Roberto the mechanic remembered me from last year and has the pictures I emailed him last year stashed in his ruck sack.

The bikes are still Scotts, but with a new colour scheme and a ‘fly-thru’ seat tube – as first used by Carlton in the early 70’s. I must launch an extensive reenge thru the archive and find pictures of that.

Saunier Duval Team Launch
Scott Addict (hmm, shame about the name) with lovely SRAM Red Gruppo.

The groupset is the new SRAM ‘Red’ – it looks very striking. I was impressed with the “double tap” shifters on the ‘Force’ groupset last year at Estepona, but I heard murmers that they weren’t as positive as some of the riders would like.

I’m hoping to spend time with the Scott and SRAM technical guys who are here and bug them them lots of anorak-type questions. I also hope to talk to Mauro Gianetti about loosing Millar, the Mayo affair and his goals for the squad for 2008.

We hope you like the pics, there’ll be more over the next three days as we try and give you a look behind the scenes of a top ProTour team.

As we say in Dysart; via con Dios!