Italian champion Eva Lechner will not be participating in the upcoming UEC Cyclo-cross European Championships held on Sunday in Rosmalen, Netherlands. Lechner is currently positioned third in the world ranking but was left off the competing roster because the national team coach has opted to send a development team.
"I understand your surprise," Italian national team coach Fausto Scotti told Wielerflits on Wednesday. "But for this European Championship I have chosen to draw the cards from the younger riders. I'm thinking of the future of Italian cyclo-cross."
Scotti selected the team and has chosen to fill only two of the six spots available to the elite women’s team. The riders selected to compete are Alice Maria Arzuffi and Rebecca Gariboldi. Arzuffi is currently ranked ninth in the world and has had a strong season with multiple podiums in C1-level events and an eighth place at the World Cup in Bern.
"I would still understand this a little bit, if all six places were filled with this,” Lechner said. “But with Alice Maria Arzuffi and Rebecca Gariboldi only two compatriots are at the start of the women's race. This seems difficult to explain."
Lechner races for Creafin-Tüv Süd and she sits behind world champion Sanne Cant (Belgium) and Katie Compton (USA) in the world ranking. Last season, she finished on the podium in three World Cups; Namur, Heusden-Zolder and Hoogerheide, and she was seventh at the World Championships in Valkenburg.
There have been three World Cups so far this season where Lechner has placed 16th in the Waterloo opener, sixth in Iowa City and more recently ninth in Bern. She hasn't done as well in C1-level events in Europe placing outside of the top 10 at Superprestige events in Gieten and Ruddervoorde, and at Hotondcross.
On Thursday, Arzuffi placed second at Koppenbergcross and Lechner finished ninth.
Lechner suggested that the relationships between herself and the national team coaches, particularly Scotti, has disintegrated since she began working with her coach Luca Bramati, and perhaps that played a role in the team selected for the European Championships. Scotti refuted those claims, however, saying that Lechner would likely be back on the team for the World Championships in Denmark in February.
"This is just a tactical choice and, as far as I'm concerned, is separate from the selection for the World Championship, later this season in Denmark in Bogense. The chance is real that Eva is back again," Scotti said.
Nonetheless, Bramati questioned Scotti's decision to send a younger team of only two riders, and pointed out that Lechner is only 33, and of similar age to the top-ranked women in the sport. He said he tried to go above Scotti's rank to Italian head coach Davide Cassani, but was unsuccessful in swaying the decision.
"How old is Marianne Vos? How old are Ellen Van Loy and Loes Sels?" Bramati said. "I do not understand what drives Scotti. In the meantime, I have already had contact with Davide Cassani, an umbrella coach.
"He also does not understand, but told me that we can do nothing but [allow] Fausto Scotti's decision. Scotti is also best friends with chairman Renato Di Rocco and therefore pretty untouchable in Italy. In any case, leaving Lechner at home at the European Championships is not good for Eva herself, not for her team, but also for cyclo-cross in our country."
Bramati went on to say that Lechner must move on with her racing calendar, race well, and continue to prove her value to the Italian national team.