BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz is expected to arrive at the Giro d'Italia today, but he should not expect a warm welcome from the Professional Continental teams in the peloton after his recent suggestions that the quality of teams invited to participate in WorldTour events should be scrutinised to help reduce crashes in the peloton.
Ochowicz issued a statement on the BMC website on Monday, suggesting that a way to eliminate the chances of crashes in the peloton would be to reduce the size of the peloton.
Perhaps taking a stance as the final decision on major reforms of the sport are about to be discussed and formalised, Ochowicz said he is against a reduction in the number of riders per team in major races but instead pointed his finger at the quality of the Professional Continental teams that are given wild card invitation to races by organisers.
"Selection should be based on quality and performance – not politics," Ochowicz wrote in his message. "This can go a long ways toward reducing the danger and damage to riders during a long and rigorous racing season. Rider safety should be priority No. 1 going forward."
The reaction to Ochowicz statement amongst the Italian-based Professional Continental teams was blunt and aggressive.
Claudio Corti of the Colombia team visited the Giro d'Italia in Aprica. His team is not racing this year but has secured a wild card invitation to the Vuelta a España.
"I think we've got better and safer bikes than the BMC bikes Ochowicz's team uses," Corti told Cyclingnews. "I'm honestly not interested in what Ochowicz wants. We're awaiting the UCI reforms and that's what counts. A place in the WorldTour shouldn't just be based on points and budgets but on the ability of the management and staff. Ochowicz should think again about what he's said."
Gianni Savio, the manager of the Androni Giocattoli Sidermec team is known for his diplomacy but jumped to the defence of his squad, and the Professional Continental category, without mincing his words.
"I haven't read exactly what Jim Ochowicz has said or written but if he said something like that, then he's wasted a chance to keep his mouth shut," Savio told Cyclingnews.
"I've always admired Jim but crashes have nothing to do with the quality of the teams that are invited to WorldTour races and their equipment. We're a Professional Continental team of long standing and our bikes, made by Kuota, are definitely as good as the BMC bikes. I also think that every Professional Continental has equally as good equipment.
"I always respect other people, whoever they are, but I also expect respect from others. And what Jim has said smacks of a total lack of respect for the whole of cycling, not only the smaller teams."
Some WorldTour teams are like ghosts in the peloton
Savio insisted he is favour of a high-quality, elite peloton but went on the attack, suggesting that several major WorldTour teams had failed to honour the Giro d'Italia by sending their B teams to the Italian Grand Tour.
"Please write this because I want Jim and others to understand that I'm not one to always defend the small teams of the sport. I'm in favour of the highest possible quality in our sport. But it has to be real, not fake or theoretical," Savio told Cyclingnews.
"I'm not going to name names out of respect but I think everybody has seen that there are several WorldTour teams here at the Giro d'Italia that are little more than bit-part players in the race. Some WorldTour teams are like ghosts in the peloton. They're rarely seen on the attack or in the breaks. If Jim Ochowicz thinks that these kind of performances represent the best of professional cycling, then he's making a huge mistake.
"I'm all in favour of a major reform of professional cycling but it has to be a real reform, not a fake reform like the introduction of the ProTour was a few years ago, and like the WorldTour is fake in so many ways at the moment. The current WorldTour is centralised on the Tour de France and the teams focus massively on the French Grand Tour and then send their second-string team, or even a third-string team, to other races but make fools of themselves.
"I suspect that what's been said is an attempt to sway opinion by someone who has failed to get some results in the Giro d'Italia and who wants to eliminate those who have got results or who are trying to get them, while honouring the race."