The 2013 Italian national champion Ivan Santaromita has announced he has signed a one-year contract with the Skydive Dubai Continental team based in the United Arab Emirates, after claiming he refused to pay to secure a ride with a Professional Continental team.
Santaromita raced with Orica-GreenEdge in 2014 and 2015 but described the last two years of his career as ‘hell’. He raced for just 41 days in 2015 and was not selected for a Grand Tour. He won the Italian national title while riding for BMC, where he was part of Cadel Evans' 2011 Tour de France victory, and also took a stage at the Giro del Trentino in 2013. He won the overall classification at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi & Bartali at Liquigas in 2010, as well as helping Vincenzo Nibali to his Vuelta a Espana victory that year.
“I think we have two mentalities that are opposite with Italian and Australian – that’s just how it is,” Santaromita told Cyclingnews in the summer when asked about his strained relationship with Orica-GreenEdge.
The Varese-based rider was expected to join Astana in support of Nibali but that deal failed to materialise. Gazzetta dello Sport suggests he had an offer from the MTN-Qhubeka team if it secured a WorldTour licence but he preferred to ink a one-year contract with Skydive Dubai instead of waiting for the UCI to decide on the final WorldTour slot for 2016.
“I’m going to start over with Skydive and I’m sure I can get my career back on track,” Santaromita told Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s true Skydive is only a Continental team but I’ve spoken to [new directeur sportif] Alberto Volpi and [team manager] Ricardo Martins and realised their project is serious. I’ve accepted a one-year contract but if things work out well, I’ll carry on with them.”
Santaromita admitted that he had talks with several Professional Continental teams and suggested he was encouraged to put up money in order to secure a contract. A recent report by Italian journalist Marco Bonarrigo revealed that some riders are forced to find personal sponsors or pay back part of their salary to secure a place in Italian Professional Continental teams, even if the teams have denied any wrongdoing.
“There were other possible choices but I certainly won’t pay to race with a Professional [Continental team],” Santaromita said. “Now I’m going to put my head down and train hard before my first trip to Dubai on December 10.”
Volpi explained that the Skydive Dubai team will start its 2016 season in Gabon in January before riding the Dubai Tour, the Tour of Qatar and perhaps the Tour of Oman. The team is also hoping to race more internationally and is chasing places at the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia and in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi & Bartali and the Giro del Trentino in Italy.