By André Santos
Team Futura Trentino Alta Quota might be a new Pro Team in Visma Ski Classics for season XI, but the Italian team has been around the block for a long time.
We talked with the Pro Team director Andrea Buttaboni to get to know his team better.
Despite being not being in Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour for a couple of years, your team has been around long distance skiing for a long time.
Can you tell us your story?
“It was the natural consequence of a new and gradual growth of some promising guys of the Pro Team who, although we did not participate in Pro Tour from 2015 to 2017. Alongside the rest of the team’s growth, it became possible for us to support the athletes again and allow them to compete in the important and prestigious Visma Ski Classics circuit.”
“The history of our team dates back to 1981 with Marcialonga. Since then, almost 40 years of sports history have passed with great results, including the victory in all the Italian Granfondos and many good results even abroad. More recently, in the last five years, we managed to get a second place in La Sgambeda and the eleventh place in the men’s and women’s Dobbiaco-Cortina; we also managed several top-ten placements in Visma Ski Classics races.”
“Working with sponsors, it is always very delicate and difficult to address it, especially in Italy, where this sport is behind 40th place in popularity. The support has started from those who are closest to the Pro Team and especially involving fans of this sport that, thanks to their work, can support those activities that enjoy less popularity and media visibility.”
There are some very familiar names in your Pro Team. What can you tell about them?
“We like to call our Pro Team a “melting pot of athletes and personalities” because there is really a lot of that. I may start from the Mich brothers, a team inside the team since they often train together and share preparations and advice: Riccardo, who is our captain, has a lot of experience; he complements excellently with Stefano, his brother. Stefano is younger and therefore has less experience, but he is growing: they really match together!
Another young and growing athlete is Manuel Amhof who has excellent physical qualities but needs experience as he is very young, like Thea Schwingshackl. In fact, we have created a duo of great experience and reliability to give the right advice, as the multi-award category at the Olympics and the World Masters Marco Mosconi and Marco Crestani, who will help the youngsters to grow. Finally, the Russian compartment is formed by two champions and friends: Evgenij Dementiev and Aleksandr Legkov, who need no introduction. Our team has also been pleased to welcome Elena Ustiugova, Sergei Ustiugov’s wife, who decided to join us in her post-maternity.”
How has your Pro Team’s summer training been and how have Covid-19 restrictions affected your plans?
“The group is divided into three sub-training groups: there is the one made up of the Trentino’s boys, the Alto Atesini ones and last but not least, the Russian’s group. In July, we had organized a training camp with the Russian athletes, which was canceled due to Covid-19. In September, we also have organized a training camp on roller skis for the Italian boys who could participate. The one in October, we also had to cancel for the same reason. It has been and will be a very complicated year and season.”
Team Futura Trentino Alta Quota is the third Pro team from Italy. Is Visma Ski Classics popularity growing in Italy?
“Personally, I believe that the Visma Ski Classic is a well-organized circuit and that it is a beautiful showcase for our sport. For athletes, it acts to give that extra something. The athletes feel part of a sports world that is the long distance world cup.”
Aleksandr Legkov in Team Futura Trentino Alta Quota outfit.
Last but not least, what are your expectations for Evgenij Dementiev and Aleksandr Legkov?
“The bond with Evgenij Dementiev came with his friend Aleksandr Legkov. It also comes from the deep bond that our team has since the 90s with the Russian Ski Federation. It’s a romantic/sporting story that began almost 30 years ago when some Russian national team members were invited to Italy to compete in the World Cup and win Marcialonga several times on both men’s and women’s sides..”
“Marcialonga 1991 was a very special edition because both 1989 and 1990 the race was canceled. In the race, a Russian girl named Evgenja Bichugova ranked second behind another Italian athlete, Guidina Dal Sasso. The third place was taken by a promising Polish girl who later will dress in our uniform, Dorota Dziadkowiec. And it was immediately a great success with eight podiums in 12 years (the last in 2003) and also a great love between our President Bernardo Trabalzini and Evgenja Bichugova, who did not leave Italy ever again. This is where our great synergy with Mother Russia was born. Also, thanks to the continuous bond Evgenija Bichugova has with her roots and to an ongoing exchange of contacts.”
“Recently, great friendship has sparked with Evgenij Dementiev who, for us, not only is an athlete but a great friend to the point that from this year his De_ski_sport brand will dress our Team.”
“What do we expect from them? As always great professionalism and participation, I mean they are great athletes and if it’s meant to be, then it will be, because first come to the values of sport and friendship and then the competition, so: may the best win!”