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Lance Armstrong surrounded by his Radioshack team.
Riccò facing spell in "quarantine" and unlikely to be at Amsterdam start
The organizers of the Giro d'Italia RCS Sport will announce the teams invited to ride this year's race on Monday, but Lance Armstrong's RadioShack squad will not be amongst them. There also seems little chance that Riccardo Riccò will be welcomed back to this year's Giro, despite his ban for doping ending on March 18.
In recent weeks, RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel had publicly hoped the RadioShack team would be invited to the Giro. However with Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer targeting the Tour of California at the same time as the Giro, the US-registered team failed to convince the Giro organisers they deserved a place and did not push particularly hard to have a team in the race.
"On Monday, we're going to announce 22 teams, but RadioShack won't be in the race," race director Angelo Zomegnan told Cyclingnews when asked about the teams expected to line up in Amsterdam for the start of the Giro on May 8.
Lance Armstrong rode the centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia in 2009 with the Astana team. It was his first ever start in the Giro, but his special relationship with Zomegnan seems to have soured following the rider protest over safety concerns during the Milan circuit stage.
Armstrong was brought into the protest by other riders but Zomegnan seemed to publicly chastise him, telling the Associated Press, "There's a certain age at which your legs start to get shorter and your tongue longer."
Armstrong was due to ride Milan-San Remo on Saturday, perhaps to help RadioShack secure a place in the Giro d'Italia, but pulled out less than 24 hours before the start. The team said in a press release that he was suffering from gastroenteritis.
Riccò: persona non grata
On Friday La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, which is part of the same RCS media company that organises the Giro d'Italia, claimed that Riccardo Riccò (and perhaps as a consequence his Ceramica Flaminia team) would not be invited to the Giro.
When questioned by Cyclingnews, Zomegnan refused to use Riccò's name but he made it clear that any rider returning from a ban for doping would first have to serve a period of quarantine before being allowed to ride the Giro. It seems Riccò is in the doghouse.
"There was a story with Riccò's name in it in Gazzetta dello Sport. I didn't name names, and I won't until Monday," said Zomegnan.
"I just expressed the important point that in the past we've put our trust in a lot of riders by inviting them to our races when their suspensions had just ended. Yet they didn't pay us back for the faith we showed in them because they quickly made the same mistakes.
"As a consequence RCS Sport, the Gazzetta dello Sport and I will keep some people who have recently faced bans under control for a reasonable amount of time. After this kind of 'quarantine', we decide to invite them to our races or not."
Zomegnan refused to talk about Riccò but made it obvious to whom he was referring.
"For certain riders, the quarantine has just started. When I say a reasonable amount of time, I'm not talking about just a week," he added. "It's difficult to see how someone who isn't suitable for the Giro on March 22, can be suitable on April 22. It'll take longer than a month. It's very difficult that whoever isn't invited on March 22 will be at the start of the Giro."
The teams likely to be invited to ride the Giro d'Italia include BMC Racing, with world champion Cadel Evans, Team Sky with Bradley Wiggins, the Cervelo TestTeam with Carlos Sastre, and most of the major ProTour teams and leading Italian squads. However, Zomegnan admitted to Dutch media that only one team from the Netherlands will be amongst the 22 teams he announces on Monday.