Saturday, August 9, 2014

Know Your DS: Luciano Rui and Zalf-Euromobil-Fior

After going through the murky past of Oliviano Locatelli, it is time to look at the 2nd DS in this series. This is another name that many of you might not know but over the last 23 seasons, he has lead the Zalf-Euromobil-Fior team to over 800 wins and has produced a slew of future pros. 6 world champions and a slew of Italian national championships and yet we know next to nothing about the man that directed them to many a glory.

Rui (center) celebrating Matteo Busato's Italian U23 RR win

Luciano Rui wasn't a spectacular racer but he did have some talent. Rui won a stage of the Giro della Valle d'Aosta in 1980 and proceeded to start both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France but after 1982, he hung up the wheels for the DS car. He first started with the MG Boys in the mid-eighties and joined Zalf-Euromobil in 1991. At that time, Zalf-Euromobil had been around for nearly a decade and had the amateur world champion, Mirco Gualdi, and star cyclocross rider Daniele Pontoni (named in Ferrara Case for taking EPO/busted in 1998 for cocaine) on its roster in 1991.

In those years, Zalf was a strong team but by no means a world class team. Cristian Salvato won the World Championship in the TTT for Italy in both 1993 and 94 while Pontoni kept winning in cyclocross. It was in 1995 that the Castelfranco, Veneto-based squad began to turn out some world beating talent just like it had in the 80's with Maurizio Fondriest and Gianni Faresin. 1995 saw the team bring on Paolo Savoldelli and Marzio Bruseghin but Luciano Rui and owner Luciano Camillo scored a huge prize with Giuliano Figueras, who was seen as the next big Italian star. They plucked him from Naples and brought him north to Castelfranco and while he had to finish up some military service, Figueras went to win the World Military RR Championship ahead of Russian Sergei Ivanov.

In 1996, Zalf was becoming one of the best teams in the world. They signed Ivan Basso, who had won so much as a junior, and while they lost Savoldelli to the pro ranks, they signed Italian U23 Champion Palumbo along with Gorazd Stangelj, Denis Bertolini to join Figueras and Bruseghin. They won an incredible 42 races with just a roster of 15 riders and Figueras won the U23 World Championships in Lugano after the Italians dominated the race, taking the top 4 spots.

This success obviously must have been because of the Italians training so hard and just being so naturally gifted compared to everyone else in the world.

1997 saw 45 wins but they lost the World Championship jersey to a wily Norwegian. So what is a team to do? Of course, just call him and sign him for 1998. And like that, Kurt Asle Arvesen joined Zalf-Euromobil-Fior for what was one of their finest teams ever. Basso won the World Championships in Valkenburg in a solo breakaway while the team took 41 victories. These were riders like Michele Scarponi, Manuel Quinziato and a young Alessandro Ballan along with shining stars like Fabio Mazzer and Raffaele Ferrara.

Down years for Zalf were when they won a paltry 25 races. Riders kept coming through the door and then through to the pro ranks. Damiano Cunego, fresh off a Junior World Championship, joined the team. So did Emanuele Sella and Daniele Pietropolli. Let me just name some more for you: Daniele Colli, Tiziano Dall'Antonio, Oliver Zaugg, Andrea Moletta, Paolo Longo Borghini, Davide Vigano, Domenico Pozzovivo, Oscar Gatto, Davide Malacarne, Daniel Oss, Simone Ponzi, Gianluca Brambilla, Manuele Boaro, Enrico Battaglin...and that is not a full list by any means.

Luciano Rui has been with Zalf for the last 23 years. He has seen some of the biggest and brightest talents in Italy rise and fall. And he has also been around for drug busts, court cases and cycling being dragged through the mud because of rampant doping. The Italian amateur peloton, for the majority of the last two decades, has been a cesspool for doping, cheating and basically flouting any rules. Those years where Figueras, Basso, Di Luca and co. just rode away from everyone in the U23s before heading to the pro ranks...what the fuck do you think they were doing. And through this whole time, Luciano Rui has remained untouched, like nearly every other Italian DS that has piloted a team during this time. Just look at the damn list above and at how many of those riders have been involved or rumored to be involved in drug rings? A telling fact.

In more recent years, Rui has been joined by Gianni Faresin in the car. Faresin was a former Zalf rider and was also involved in doping practices in the 1990's that included his Giro di Lombardia win. So what goes well with an older DS that slips through the anti-doping net? A former rider who blood doped, of course! To top it off, Bertolini is a convicted blood doper and was named as a client of Michele Ferrari. These three guys are in charge of Zalf-Euromobil-Fior's riders, who are currently the most winning team in Italy with 41 wins. Getting past the bullshit of "that was the past" and "it was a different time", they are in charge of impressionable youths. Bertolini only quit racing a few years ago and now he has some of the finest talent in his team including

The team this year includes one of the fastest Italian sprinters in Nicolas Marini, one of the biggest talents in Federico Zurlo and some great riders in Simone Andreetta (winner Bassano-Monte Grappa and Giro del Belvedere), Alessandro Tonelli, Gianni Moscon, Simone Velasco...and pretty much everyone on the roster. Now it is a damn shame that these riders need to be associated with Faresin and Bertolini. The latter two might be nice guys but there shady past and no signs of remorse lead me to think that they shouldn't be involved with young riders. Luciano Rui might not have been running drugs for his riders and had a program for them but he also could have turned a blind eye to riders doping for many a decade and that is unforgivable too.

Compared to Pala Fenice DS Oliviano Locatelli, these guys look much better. They haven't been caught trafficking drugs or telling riders how to avoid doping controls. They are also much better at creating a successful pro than Locatelli as many riders from there squad, doping or not, have gone onto many wins and long careers. Rui seems to be an affable character that isn't too hard to get along with and he and Faresin have made a good DS team. Rui, in an interview with, talked about the importance of vacation and how some rest does wonders for riders.

While it isn't much harder to be cleaner and less dictatorial than Oliviano Locatelli, they are still tainted. 2 of them are dopers and the 3rd, Luciano Rui, might express how he wants to clean the sport up but guess what? In 2002, Oliviano Locatelli said the same fucking thing. Luciano Rui wasn't there telling Emanuele Sella or anyone else to avoid doping at any cost. He is still a part of the problem. You, Luciano Rui, might run a fine team that trains well and dominates the scene but you were a big part of them problem in the 80s, 90s and 00s and the fact you are still here makes me think that we will never have a generation that is truly clean.

I know for the next one of these posts, I want to venture away from Italy and I have a few in mind so stayed tuned to learn a bit more about the DSs and teams that I talk about so much.

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