Michele Acquarone confirmed he desire for a new, more constructive relationship with teams and riders by publicly admitting stage six of Tirreno-Adriatico was too hard and too long.
After riders suffered yet another hard stage in the race and some were forced to walk up the 30 per cent wall of Sant'Elpidio Mare, the general manager of race organiser RCS Sport took to Twitter to admit his mistake and also spoke to several riders in person.
Riders were close to protesting after tackling the climb for the first time but Acquarone's apology and willingness to talk resulted in Fabian Cancellara and Mark Cavendish openly praising him via Twitter.
Acquarone has only been involved in cycling and RCS Sport for 18 months but has brought a breath of fresh air and a new vision to professional cycling. Former race director Angelo Zomegnan preferred a more aggressive, almost tyrannical, relationship with the teams and riders. Acquarone carefully defends the economical interests of RCS Sport but is understanding and open to dialogue.
This year's Tirreno-Adriatico attracted many of he biggest names in the sport but Acquarone is acutely aware that the sport needs a major overhaul, starting with the race calendar.
"We have to look at our calendar and not be afraid to change it," Acquarone said while talking to the media present at Tirreno-Adriatico.
"It's crazy that two important races are held at the same time. I'm not from the world of cycling and so I often I think like a fan. And if I compare cycling to other sports in the world, I realise we're the only sport were when we have the world's strongest riders together, it's a surprise. It shouldn't be a surprise, it should the norm."
"Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico were born as training races for Milano-Sanremo. If they're training races, they shouldn't be part of the WorldTour and could perhaps overlap. But if they're both WorldTour races, then one of them has to move."
"I've got no problem moving Tirreno-Adriatico, we could move it a week earlier. I'm willing to take a step back to make it happen. But I have to be assured that if it’s a WorldTour race, then the big-name riders have to come. It doesn't matter if it’s the UCI or a private league created by the teams. That doesn’t matter. What we have to do is guarantee the fans a certain number of champions in the races."
Acquarone confirmed he is even willing to consider reducing the length of the Giro d'Italia but only if other races are also willing to make similar changes.
"As I said, if we all take a step back, we'll be the first to do it. If we have to do shorter races, we'll do it, but we've all got to do it," he said.
"I'm ready to talk about a calendar where the riders can race all year, all over the world. Even the Giro can be open to discussion, why not? But not if we're the only ones and if we have to make room for other people. Any reference it anyone else is purely causal…"
Ruffling ASO's feathers
Acquarone has ruffled the feathers of Tour de France organisers ASO thanks to his innovative race route design, better communication strategy and ever improving relations with the teams and riders. RCS Sport is even willing to share future revenues with the teams.
However it seems the divisions within the AIGCP teams association has hindered a long term agreement.
"At the moment our relations with ASO and the UCI are good but it's easy when things stay the same. Things get difficult when you have to change things," Acquarone pointed out.
"We've said were willing to discuss sharing revenue with people. We met with the teams of the AIGCP in October to talk about revenue sharing; we were ready to do it. But it was the teams who couldn't agree between themselves on the project we offered. We offered a long-term agreement but they were more used to thinking in the short-term. But that doesn't make sense to me."
"We're ready to talk to anyone but these things need to run parallel to other reforms in cycling such as the calendar. For example the WorldTour also needs to change. It doesn't really exist anyway. There are a lot of nice races but not a real WorldTour. When we sort out the calendar, we're also willing to discuss revenue sharing with the teams."