Michele Acquarone arrived in Ireland on Thursday to confirm that the 2014 Giro d’Italia will begin in Belfast before visiting Armagh and Dublin, but he said that the precise details of the three Irish stages will only be decided after further discussions with teams and riders concerning logistics.
The greatest potential obstacle to bringing the Grande Partenza to Ireland was the new UCI regulation barring Grand Tours from having rest days during the opening week, which means that the Giro and its caravan will have to travel from the finish of stage 3 in Dublin on May 12 to the start of stage 4 in Italy the following day.
While that hurdle has been negotiated, Acquarone and RCS Sport are still pondering whether to include a time trial in Ireland, and whether that time trial – team or individual – will take place in Belfast on stage one or in Dublin on stage three.
RCS has already held discussions with the teams’ association AIGCP and riders’ association CPA concerning their preferences for the Irish start, and the details will be confirmed shortly after the conclusion of this year’s Giro.
“We have three different plans for the Irish stages and now we just have to choose which is the best plan for everybody. It’s possible we could start with a time trial or have one on the third day before travelling to Italy,” Acquarone told Cyclingnews in Belfast. “We’ve already spoken about it and already defined almost everything. When you start the Giro so far away and without a rest day before returning to Italy, you have to talk about it with the teams and riders first.
“There isn’t an enormous hurry about deciding on the specifics of the stages. The important thing is to ensure that the riders get on the plane in time to go and race in Italy the following day, and we know we can do that. We’re tranquillo about the transport, so now it’s just a question of finding the solution that is best suited to everybody.”
Katusha the 23rd team
While Acquarone and his RCS team have plenty of time to fine-tune the logistics for the Giro’s Irish start in 2014, they have been forced to work within somewhat tighter time restraints to find room – quite literally – for a 23rd team at this year’s race.
Following Katusha’s successful appeal for reinstatement to the WorldTour last week, the UCI announced on Monday that cycling’s elite division would now feature 19 teams, meaning that the Giro – which has already distributed its four wildcard invitations – must now carry 23 teams. Acquarone was disappointed that the UCI had not taken the time to communicate its decision to RCS beforehand.
“It was such an important decision but there wasn’t even a telephone call. I’m surprised that nobody called us and that when I called, nobody called back,” said Acquarone.
Katusha’s late addition is estimated to incur €150,000 in costs for the Giro organisers, but Acquarone said that he was more concerned by the logistical implications of the situation than the additional expense.
“You can absorb the costs – money problems can always be solved,” Acquarone said. “The problem is more to do with the quality of the event. Today I don’t know if I’ll be able to have 23 teams on the boat to Ischia for the third stage of the Giro, for instance.
“The logistics are already complicated there, so imagine if you had a similar situation coming here next year. That’s a problem. The agreement was that the WorldTour would have 18 teams. But with 19 teams, it’s become our problem and we have to find a way to make it work.”
Under Acquarone’s stewardship, the Giro and RCS Sport’s other races have placed great store on allocating their wild cards at the beginning of the season. While he maintained a diplomatic front, it is clear that Acquarone wishes that the make-up of the WorldTour could be established with similar swiftness.
“I’m not saying the UCI works badly and I’ll never say that, because I understand how complicated their work is. I’ll just say that there’s a problem and it needs to be resolved immediately.”