- Article published:
- October 8, 2013, 09:26
- Stephen Farrand
Taranto: "His suspension is about governance not about punishment"
The 2014 Giro d'Italia presentation went ahead as planned in Milan on Monday, with organiser RCS Sport determined to focus on the details and quality of next year's race rather than discuss the recent news that an internal audit has discovered the possible misappropriation of funds from its accounts.
However Michele Acquarone, the likeable and much admired figurehead and driving force behind the Giro d'Italia in recent years was not at the presentation. He was suspended by RCS Sport last week while a detailed internal investigation is completed.
CEO Giacomo Catano, Matteo Pastore, the head of communications and external relations at RCS Sport and Laura Bertinotti, head of accounts and administration, were also absent from the presentation. Bertinotti has resigned from the company.
The Italian media has reported that up to 13 million Euros may have disappeared from the accounts of minor sporting events managed by RCS Sport. It seems the cycling sector is not directly involved but the Giro d'Italia is RCS Sport's backbone and biggest asset of the company.
RCS Sport had an estimated turnover of 48 million Euros a year, with profits of three million. The misappropriation could leave a significant hole in the company's balance sheet.
Andrea Monti, the editor of Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian sports newspaper that owns the Giro d'Italia and is part of the RCS Media Group, presented the 2014 Giro d'Italia route presentation. He was joined on stage by Pier Bergonzi, one of the senior journalists of the paper and the former chief cycling reporter. He is the leading candidate to become the new figurehead of RCS Sport's cycling events if Acquarone is unable to return to his role.
Riccardo Taranto was appointed as the new CEO of RCS Sport on October
4, following Acquarone’s suspension. He has managed the RCS Group Advertising Department since 2008 and will hold the double role until the investigation is complete.
"Things carry on as usual. It's not a particularly difficult moment," he told Cyclingnews with typical Milanese business aplomb.
"We're simply carrying out a study of some things that weren't managed correctly and we're working so that the problem is totally resolved.
It's nothing to worry about and nothing that has ever put in doubt all the events RCS Sport organises."
"It happens in lots of other companies but unfortunately it doesn't hit the headlines like it has in this case. We're doing the audit to understand the size of the problem and then we'll know more."
Few people at RCS Sport believe that Acquarone is directly involved in the misappropriation of funds but as Chief Operating Officer he was responsible for the management and finances of the company.
Acquarone was the driving force of RCS Sport and especially the Giro d'Italia after taking over from Angelo Zomegnan in 2011. He lead a hard working and dedicated team of staff that help modernize the Giro d'Italia, making him one of the most innovative race organisers in professional cycling.
It is currently difficult to see how Acquarone can return to the position of CEO but Taranto refused to rule it out.
"We took a preventative decision. It's not a disciplinary suspension but a preventative one. His suspension is about governance not about punishment," he said.
"We can’t exclude that Michele will return to his position. It depends on the outcome of the investigation."
- Article published:
- October 8, 2013, 10:20
- Cycling News
Garmin-Sharp climber heads to China
Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) believes that there’s little pressure on his shoulders as he leads his team into the Tour of Beijing. The race starts this Friday, with a five-stage battle in and around China’s capital.
Recently fourth - despite a crash - at the Tour of Lombardy, Martin ranks as a possible contender for the overall title this year with the race holding its first summit finish in its three year history.
“It’s the end of the year – my legs are obviously pretty good,” Martin said. “You can’t get fourth in Lombardy without being good. I’m not as fresh as I could be – that might play against me in a stage race but we’ll see.”
“After the year I’ve had, it really is a lot of fun now; there’s no pressure on us as a team and especially myself. We’ve got a strong team here.”
Garmin will have to do without the services of Lachlan Morton. The Australian crashed out of Lombardy and is suffering a concussion but Garmin-Sharp have sent an experienced team to the UCI’s final WorldTour event of the season.
Tour de France participant Jack Bauer lines up alongside Martin, Nathan Haas, Nick Nuyens, Jacob Rathe, Fabian Wegmann and Steele Von Hoff.
Haas, who finished sixth this year at the Tour de Langkawi will look to support Martin on the climbs and lead out Steele Von Hoff in the sprints.
“I think there’s some really good opportunities in a race like this for Steele,” Haas said.
“We’re a really motivated team in what can be known as an unmotivated time of year for a lot of guys. It’s a good opportunity to get some WorldTour points and also for Steele who has come frustratingly close to a few wins this season to hopefully get his confidence back to match with his skill level and ability and to come in hot next year.”
- Article published:
- October 8, 2013, 11:18
- José Been
Vuelta winner unfurls a litany of hashtags
Chris Horner took to Twitter last night in his hometown of Bend, Oregon to – implicitly – vent his frustrations at his lack of a team for 2014. The Vuelta a España winner is still in negotiations with Trek Factory Team for next season, but so far a deal has not been signed.
Over the course of two and a half hours, Horner sent 24 tweets adding the hashtag “#ididthat.” The veteran American talks about all the sacrifices he’s made over the years, how he travelled the country with no money in search of a chance with a team to become a professional cyclist, and how he came back for a second round even though “some have lost belief.”
Horner finished 6th overall Tirreno-Adriatico in March but was subsequently injured for much of the year. After knee surgery, he came back to beat Vincenzo Nibali in a tense uphill battle on the Angliru to win the Vuelta, and in doing so he became the oldest ever Grand Tour winner at the age of 41.
In a bid to temper the scepticism with which his Vuelta victory was received, Horner last month took the step of releasing his biological passport data on his personal website, although he had earlier refused to answer Cyclingnews questions on whether he was a redacted name in USADA’s Reasoned Decision on the Lance Armstrong case.
In his series of tweets, Horner refers to the scepticism that surrounds him, but he concludes his online essay by saying “Yes it was worth it and the dream continues. With or without the belief.”
9.37pm Pacific Daylight Time: 15 years old and up @ 4:30am before school starts to train while dreaming of winning a grand tour. I did that!
9.44pm PDT Riding your bike to work so that you can train for hours in the dark after works done. I did that!
9.53pm PDT Hitching a ride across the country for months w/no money (almost I had 400+-) to race. I did that!
9.58pm PDT Sleeping in hotels,host family houses,cars,and park benches to get to the races. I did that!
10.02pm PDT Pro teams won't give you chance, so you buy your own license and race as an independent. I did that!
10.09pm PDT Race pro for years w/out pay just hoping to make enough winnings to pay rent. I did that!
10.17pm PDT Win everything in the US, pass on the big pay check, go to Europe for minimum pay. #ididthat!
10.27pm PDT Live in Europe in a small apartment W/no car,computer,phone,TV, only a walk for company. #ididthat!
10.28pm PDT Oops. Only a Walkman for company. #ididthat!
10.33pm PDT Take a step back hoping to go forward again. #ididthat!
10.39pm PDT Winning again but told I'm to old to go back to Europe a second time but keep fighting anyways. #ididthat!
10.45pm PDT Sell everything I own for a second chance at a grand tour, fly over with a 140bucks in my pocket. #ididthat!
10.54pm PDT Start going up the ladder with each year passing while never getting that leader respect and belief. #ididthat!
11.00pm PDT Up @6am w/3kids so I can drop them off @school before I go train all day for the Grand tours. #ididthat!
11.03pm PDT Finding that belief, given the leadership, delivering on it. #ididthat!
11.13pm PDT Moving up the ladder w/that continued belief, big sponsors on board now. #ididthat!
11.18pm PDT Whole season disappearing fast but still working hard to make it to those grand tours. #ididthat!
11.21pm PDT Amazing help and belief from all my family, friends, and fans to get back there. #ididthat!
11.32pm PDT Works paid off, forms back, but by now some have lost belief. #ididthat!
11.40pm PDT So much stress & work 4another start at a dream that began many years ago. #ididthat!
11.43pm PDT A life time of work and a stage/jersey arrive and disappear over night.
11.51pm PDT 100% is given and second time it happens, only to pass just as fast but
belief is returning. #ididthat!
12.04am PDT The jersey returned only this time for life, the stories to tell before & during it are epic & life time. #ididthat
12.08am PDT Yes it was worth it and yes the dream continues... With or without the belief. #ididthat!
- Article published:
- October 8, 2013, 12:02
- Cycling News
"I've always preferred the Giro to the Tour"
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has spoken of his desire to make his Giro d’Italia debut in 2014, saying that he has always preferred the Italian race to the Tour de France. The Colombian finished second at the Tour this season, but told reporters at the Giro presentation in Milan on Monday that his race programme could be different next season.
“I would have liked to have been at the Giro already this year, but [Movistar manager Eusebio] Unzue preferred to send me to the Tour,” Quintana said, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. “The Giro has always attracted me and I’ve always preferred it to the Tour because there are more mountains, which makes the race more suited to me.”
In spite of his desire to line up in Belfast next May, Quintana’s strong Tour de France performance means that he will be expected to return to the race in 2014 and challenge Chris Froome (Sky) for the maillot jaune. He stressed that he would wait for the unveiling of the Tour route on October 23 before making a decision on his programme for next season.
“I hope that my desire can become reality, although before making a definitive decision, we’ll have to wait and see the courses of the Tour and the Vuelta,” Quintana said.
Although the 2014 Giro route is stripped of some of the excesses of years gone by, particularly in terms of transfers, it remains resolutely a climbers’ race, and Quintana was enthusiastic about the course. With five summit finishes in the high mountains – at Oropa, Montecampione, Val Martello, Rifugio Panarotta and the Zoncolan – there is ample opportunity for a climber such as Quintana to showcase his talents.
“I like this route a lot because from first glance you can see that it’s well suited to my characteristics as a pure climber. In the first week, you have to be careful not to get caught out by any traps, perhaps because of the wind,” he said. “The third week, even if I don’t know any Italian mountains, seems really hard to me. The only real stage that isn’t good for me is the [Barolo] time trial, because it’s very long [46km].”.
- Article published:
- October 8, 2013, 13:14
- Peter Cossins
Basque climber admits he’s nervous despite some interest from WorldTour squads
Although most of Euskaltel-Euskadi’s highest profile riders have now secured deals for next season, climbing ace Igor Antón is still negotiating with a number of WorldTour teams and admits he is getting very nervous about his prospects. Speaking on Basque television, the 30-year-old Antón said: “As things stand I’ve got nothing, or at least nothing concrete.”
Following the Tour de France, Antón appeared close to signing a deal with Omega Pharma-QuickStep, but he held off when F1 star Fernando Alonso announced his interest in taking over the Euskaltel set-up. Antón was mooted as one of the cornerstones of that project, which subsequently failed to come to fruition when negotiations broke down between Euskaltel and Alonso.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before. Both time and the decisions that have been taken have gone against me. The more time goes by, the more nervous you become,” said Antón.
He pointed out that the sudden flood of quality riders onto the market has enabled teams to pick and choose talent. “The teams keep a place or two spare to take advantage and some are now picking up good riders at very reduced rates,” he said. In his case, the option with Omega Pharma-QuickStep has been complicated by their recent signings of Jan Bakelants and Thomas De Gendt.
Antón insisted other teams at WorldTour level are interested in his services, but admitted that 2014 could be “a year of transition” for him.
Antón’s agent Giuseppe Acquadro has since told Biciciclismo that he will meet with Lefevere in Malaga on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of the Basque joining Omega Pharma-QuickStep next season.
- Article published:
- October 8, 2013, 15:26
- Cycling News
Three new riders, two departures for American team
The roster of the UnitedHealthcare professional continental team will remain largely the same in 2014, with three new riders and two departures the only changes.
The American squad confirmed its 23-rider roster on Tuesday, having already announced the addition of former criterium national champion Ken Hanson from the Optum team, Classics specialist Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp) and Colombian Isaac Bolivar. With Philip Deignan leaving the team for Sky Procycling, the only rider from 2013 not listed as returning is sprinter Jake Keough.
The team dominated the USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar in 2013, winning the team title and claiming the top four spots of the individual overall rankings with winner Hilton Clarke, Carlos Alzate, Luke Keough and Karl Menzies. The "blue train" is expected to balance its focus on the NCC along with its European ambitions again in 2014.
2014 UnitedHealthcare team:
Hilton Clarke (AUS)
Kiel Reijnen (USA)
Carlos Alzate (COL)
Lucas Euser (USA)
Marc de Maar (CUR)
Robert Förster (GER)
Jeff Louder (USA)
Ben Day (AUS)
Jonny Clarke (AUS)
Brad White (USA)
Chris Jones (USA)
Martyn Irvine (IRL)
Karl Menzies (AUS)
Davide Frattini (ITA)
Adrian Hegyvary (USA)
Alessandro Bazzana (ITA)
Luke Keough (USA)
Aldo Ilesic (SLO)
Danny Summerhill (USA)
John Murphy (USA)
Ken Hanson (USA)
Martijn Maaskant (NED)
Isaac Bolivar (COL)
- Article published:
- October 8, 2013, 17:23
- Barry Ryan
Irishman looks ahead to 2014 Giro start
Nicolas Roche is confident that Bjarne Riis can find additional sponsorship for his Saxo Bank team in 2014 despite recent speculation in the Danish media that some riders would have to agree to pay cuts in order to secure the squad’s future.
Riis has been left with a gap in his budget following the decision to part company with backer Oleg Tinkov, although he has dismissed reports that Alberto Contador had been asked to reduce his salary by 15%. As recently as the weekend, however, only 16 of Saxo-Tinkoff’s existing roster had signed contracts with the squad for next season, seven short of the minimum required by a WorldTour team.
“I don’t know any more than what you know. I’ve read the articles on Cyclingnews and read Nikki Sørensen’s comments [on possible pay cuts at Saxo – ed.] and that’s all I know,” Roche told Cyclingnews. “Unfortunately I have no extra information. I trust Bjarne will find a sponsor and obviously I’m faithful that the team will continue next year and continue well.
“Now I’m on holiday and I’ll cut off from the internet for the next couple of weeks, but I’ll trust in the people who are working to find the budget and trust that things will be fine.”
It has since emerged that Riis and Contador will hold a press conference in Madrid on Thursday regarding the future of the team, an announcement that ought to bring a degree of clarity to the rumours regarding the team's financial standing in recent weeks. Such speculation has been in no way dampened by the actions of its erstwhile backer Tinkov, now reportedly in talks to sponsor the Cannondale squad for 2014.
Having already used Twitter to issue robust criticism of Contador’s Tour de France performance, the Russian has lobbed some more social media bombs in Saxo’s direction in the past week, stating that he hoped to sign Roman Kreuziger and Rafal Majka. “We are ready to see them in our next team,” wrote Tinkov.
Roche was diplomatic when asked if Tinkov would be missed by his former riders. “Well, I haven’t had much to do with Tinkov. Actually the only thing he said about me was that I’m a gentleman, although he used that as a way to have a go at Alberto,” he said.
“When I read some of the tweets, it’s never nice to see he’s insulted riders from our team and riders from other teams. But at the moment, like you said, it’s not an ideal situation for the team to be in without a second sponsor. I’ve tried to stay away from all the political side, primarily because I can’t do anything – if I say to you today that I don’t like this or that, it’s not going to change much.”
In spite of the uncertainty at Saxo-Tinkoff in the latter part of the season, Roche himself enjoyed a solid debut campaign with the team, supporting Contador at the Tour and then riding to 5th place overall at the Vuelta a España. While Riis' is a contentious presence in the sport given the insalubrious episodes of his past, Roche had high praise for the Dane’s strategic sense, and pointed to a difference in mindset between Saxo and his former Ag2r-La Mondiale team.
“With Saxo, there was a lot more taking risks to win a race, whereas with Ag2r, especially over the last two or three years, it was more important to defend the positions we had because we were pretty low on WorldTour points,” he said. “I think that’s the main difference, even though Ag2r had a great year this year with Betancur and Pozzovivo.”
Looking ahead to 2014, Roche is eyeing an alteration to his well-worn Tour-Vuelta combination of recent years in order to ride the Giro d’Italia on home roads in Ireland, although at the race presentation in Milan on Monday, he stressed that no decision will be made until Saxo’s first gathering at the end of November.
“I’ve done two grand tours in a year for the last five years now, but riding in August is completely different to riding in April or May,” he said. “That time of year has never been great for me before because I’ve always planned for later on in the season, so it would mean changing my race programme and doing something completely new.”
Roche has not raced the Giro since he made his grand tour debut in the event in 2007 during his time at Credit Agricole, although his primary duty on that occasion was to help Thor Hushovd. “I was told that if there was a mountain I was to sit up and ride in the gruppetto because the main goal was to win stages with Thor,” he said. “It was a completely different way to approach the Giro but it was great and I learned a lot.”
But while Roche saved himself as best he could on the Zoncolan in 2007, he spared nothing when he first raced in Dundalk, which features on the route of stage two from Armagh to Dublin. Roche claimed his first victory as an under-14 in the County Louth town, and he laughed at the idea of returning as part of the Giro gruppo.
“You could have thought of maybe going through it in the Tour of Ireland but never in the Giro,” Roche said. “It’s just really exciting to have such an event starting back in Ireland.”
- Article published:
- October 8, 2013, 18:45
- Cycling News
Double champion says parcours may not suit him
With victories in the first two editions of the Tour of Beijing on his palmares, world time trial champion Tony Martin will head up the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team in the WorldTour finale this week, but is not sure the more difficult route will suit him.
The German won the inaugural Tour of Beijing on the strength of his time trialing, but claimed the lead in last year's race with a solo attack on stage two which he was able to defend through the final stage. However, with a new mountaintop finish on stage 4 added to the parcours, Martin knows the tactics will have to be different if the team is to take three in a row.
"Worlds really motivated me to get ready for Tour of Beijing," Martin said, "but to be honest the parcours this year is not really for me. There is no TT and there are a few uphill finishes. It’s kind of at the end of the season, so it is a question of being committed to try and do my best to defend my title.
"As for my presence at the race, we will have to change our tactic if we compare it with what we did in the last two years. The team is good, so we are looking forward to this race — even with a different approach."
Martin has had a long and successful 2013 season: he began the year with victories in the Volta ao Algarve, Tirreno-Adriatico, Pais Vasco, Tour de Romandie, Tour of Belgium and Critérium du Dauphiné time trials, parlaying those wins into overall victories in Algarve and Belgium.
His success continued with a time trial stage win in the Tour de France and dual world titles in the individual time trial and team time trial, and clearly has the form to give the Tour of Beijing a go.
"Even if it this edition is difficult, I will try. However, we have a great team able to fight for the sprint with Alessandro Petacchi and Nikolas Maes. We also have a few other weapons. Zdenek Stybar and Michal Golas, for example, can really play tactical roles in the team. So maybe they can also take advantage of the parcours."