Mercatone Uno and Coors Light riders received payments
Former rider Roberto Gaggioli has alleged that Lance Armstrong paid him $100,000 to allow him to claim the third and final leg of the Thrift Drug Triple Crown of Cycling in June 1993. The series carried prize money of $1 million for any rider who succeeded in winning all three races – the Thrift Drug Classic, the K-Mart West Virginia Classic and the CoreStates USPRO Championship in Philadelphia.
Speaking to Corriere della Sera and the Italian magazine Cycling Pro, Gaggioli revealed how Armstrong - by then world champion - arrived at his room in a hotel in Bergamo in October of that year and paid out the fee in cash. “It was a young American colleague [at the door]. He gave me a cake wrapped as a present, wished me ‘Happy Christmas' and then left,” Gaggioli said. “There was $100,000 dollars in small bills in the box. That colleague was Lance Armstrong.”
The Italian Gaggioli raced for the majority of his career in the United States and was racing for the Coors Light team in Philadelphia, an event he had previously won in 1988, while Armstrong was riding for Motorola. Gaggioli's New Zealand teammate Stephen Swart - who later rode for Motorola with Armstrong - has previously testified that Armstrong paid out $50,000 to be distributed among the Coors Light team during the second race of the series in West Virginia. Swart made the claim in 2006 when he provided evidence during court action between SCA Promotions and Armstrong over unpaid bonuses following his sixth Tour de France win.
“Lance approached me before the start [in Philadelphia]. He said that my team, Coors Light, was in agreement and spoke to me about the compensation: $100,000,” said Gaggioli. “Two laps from the finish, I got in the winning break with Lance, Bobby Julich and some Italians from Mercatone Uno. Lance turned to me and I pretended that I didn’t see him attacking, and he won alone.”
The four Mercatone Uno riders in the winning move were Simone Biasci, Angelo Canzonieri, Massimo Donati and Roberto Pelliconi, who confirmed that they too had reached an agreement with Armstrong. “Canzonieri and Lance agreed on ‘fifty’: Angelo was thinking in dollars, Lance in lira,” Pelliconi told Corriere della Sera. “At the Tour of Lombardy, he gave us 50 million lira, which saved 40 percent given the exchange rate.”
Biasci pointed out that Armstrong’s offer was of a magnitude that they could not refuse. “We earned more in a day than our teammates did in three weeks at the Giro d’Italia,” he said.
While Armstrong’s negotiations with the Coors Light and Mercatone Uno riders helped secure him victory in Philadelphia and Triple Crown prize. Armstrong opted to take the immediate one-time payment of $600,000 rather than $50,000 per year for 20 years.
With unintended irony, the New York Times of June 7, 1993 reported Armstrong’s success by noting that the prize money had been covered by an insurance policy organisers had taken out with Lloyds’ of London. “The biggest payoff in the history of this sport wasn't exactly $1 million in small, unmarked bills,” the New York Times wrote in an article entitled, "Armstrong feels like a million bucks."
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories in October, 2012 following USADA's investigation of his former US Postal team, and he confessed to doping in January of this year.
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