Missing from the 21 teams listed to race the 2008 Giro d'Italia on Friday was Acqua & Sapone, the team of 2000 Giro champion Stefano Garzelli. The 34 year-old Italian not only won the Giro eight years ago but he took out two magnificent stage wins last year in Bergamo and Lienz, so it was a shock for him to hear the news of his non-invite.
"The other day I had returned from an intense training session of five and a half hours. I returned to the hotel, my brother and my agent both had called me, and they told me that my team was not invited to the Giro. I sat down, I said basta, I am stopping. It is not worth all the sacrifices. It is not right," explained Garzelli to Tuttosport.
"Then I came to my senses and thought it cannot end this way; there has to be an explanation, an understanding to this decision that to me seems absurd."
He is expecting word from Acqua & Sapone Team Manager Palmiro Masciarelli in the coming days. "I know that there is a meeting scheduled between February 2 and 11," he continued from his training base in Spain.
"I have always given my maximum in my 11 Giro participations, through last year, with the two stage wins in Bergamo and Lienz, which I think were appreciated by everyone."
In 2002, Stefano Garzelli was kicked out of the Giro d'Italia while in the race leader's maglia rosa. The then Mapei rider was found positive for a masking agent, Probenecid; however a lot of time has passed since even what was then considered an unusual test result.
Acqua & Sapone's non-invite to the Giro could mean it will not be invited to Tirreno-Adriatico or Milano-Sanremo, but Garzelli continues to train in what could be his final season as a professional. "I am already preparing with great determination for mid-March's Tirreno-Adriatico. It is an important season for me, a decisive season in regards to my future."