Dubai: Encouraged by a strong showing in the Dubai Tour 2014, the Vini Fantini-Nippo team eventually hopes to start competing in UCI events as a fully professional entity in the next couple of years.
Presently using Italy as its base, the team boasts a mix of nationalities including four Italian riders along with a couple of Japanese, one Swede and a South African, Willie Smit.
Smit has been in good form in Dubai so far, being involved in the breakaway group on both the second and third stages on Thursday and Friday.
On both occasions, the young South African rider retreated back into the chasing peloton, but he has now taken the Dubai jersey for the intermediate sprints leader of overall leader Taylor Phinney.
“It has been a phenomenal race for Vini Fantini so far and getting a jersey is the least I can do for the team,” Smit told media after passing Phinney in the Dubai jersey standings with 16 points, six clear of SkyDive Dubai rider Diogo Nunes and pushing Phinney to third with eight points.
Founded as Centri della Calzatura-Partizan in 2008, Vini Fantini-Nippo for now only participate in UCI Continental Circuit races.
“We are only a continental team at the moment and the bigger picture will be to turn pro-continental by 2015 so that we can move in as a fully professional team in the next one or two years,” the South African rider said.
Smit maintained that it has not been all that easy going in Dubai. “For one, we are not the most experienced riders in the team. So after breaking away on Thursday and today I knew I was going to have a hard fight on my hands. But my aim throughout was to get the jersey and that is what I have managed,” he said.
“For me this has been a great accomplishment as there aren’t any better riders than these. It has been a great experience and I am so relieved to have the jersey.”