Vegni hopes Astana licence case will be resolved before the Giro d’Italia

RCS Sport director against an Extreme Weather Protocol

Mauro Vegni, the director of cycling at RCS Sport, is hopeful that doubts about the Astana team's licence will be resolved before the Giro d'Italia, receiving assurances from UCI Brian Cookson.

Vegni was understandably proud of the outcome of the 50th edition of Tirreno-Adriatico, with Giro d'Italia winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) becoming the first-ever Colombian winner of the spring stage race. The last minute withdrawal of Chris Froome meant the much expected scrap between the big four Grand Tour contenders never happened but the race allowed Quintana to land a psychological blow and spark questions about the form of both Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali.

In recent years Vegni has helped transform Tirreno-Adriatico from a training race for Milan-San Remo to a prestigious spring objective. He has even bigger plans for the future.

"We all know that Quintana is a great rider. Some thought he 'stole' the Giro (by attacking in the snow on the Stelvio) but he was second at the Tour de France and then crashed out of the Vuelta as race leader. He's shown his class yet again at Tirreno-Adriatico," Vegni said.

"We want to do even better going forward, making it a weeklong Giro d'Italia. I think we can still make it a bigger and better race," he said.

Vegni and his team quickly turned their attention to completing final preparations for Sunday's Milan-San Remo but he is also carefully following the Astana licence case, knowing that the consequences of the UCI Licence Commission’s verdict and any appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) could impact the Giro d’Italia.

Vegni revealed he has been working quietly behind the scenes to protect the Giro d’Italia. But it is unclear if Astana will win its battle with the UCI and retain its WorldTour licence, be given Professional Continental status and so need a wild card invitation or be refused a licence of any kind and so likely be dismantled, with riders able to join other teams.

"As of today, the Astana team can ride the Giro d’Italia. If the Licence Commission decides to take away its WorldTour licence, clearly we’d like to understand why and have a full verdict," Vegni explained to the media at Tirreno-Adriatico.

"If the verdict is bad then that clearly puts their participation in doubt. If the verdict is linked to things from the past, then I don’t think I can penalise a team and its riders."

"If the team appeals to CAS, as is their right, it could lengthen the whole process. But a week ago I met the UCI president and while not speaking specifically of this case, I asked him to ensure that we don’t start the Giro with some kind of suspended decision as was the case with Contador (in 2011 and the only race winner which was subsequently disqualified). We can’t accept that anymore. He fully agreed with me and I’m confident the case will be clarified before the start of the Giro d’Italia."

The 2015 Giro d’Italia starts on Saturday, May 9.

Vegni has been involved in race organisation for 40 years and is widely considered one of the most understanding organisers in the sport, in stark contrast to his predecessor Angelo Zomegnan. He was directly involved in the Stelvio debacle at the 2014 Giro d’Italia, when officials tried to neutralise the race at the snow covered summit, only for Quintana and other riders to go on the attack. Vegni also had the last word on Sunday when RCS Sport decided to end the stage to Terminillo as planned, despite the risk of snow.

The events of the Stelvio and other disputes about racing in extreme weather has sparked calls from riders and their various associations to introduce a so-called Extreme Weather Protocol. The UCI has created a working group to study the idea, with David Millar to represent the riders. However, Vegni said he was against the idea of any kind of limits on decision regarding racing in extreme weather.

"I’m rather critical of the idea," Vegni said.

"I think it’s very difficult to find parameters that fit with the weather and seasons and I’m not sure if it’s possible to put cycling within weather parameters. What do we do? Start a Tour de France stage at 38C and then stop it when the temp goes up to 41C, then start again at 38C?"

"If we don’t want to damage cycling and drive people away from the sport, we’ve got to use common sense. If we want to limit everything by numbers, we’ll damage our sport.

"Nobody is perfect but I think in my 40 years in cycling, I’ve always worked for the good of the rider’s health. The best example of that is Milan-San Remo two years ago. We started from Milan in bad weather and then had to manage an even more difficult situation. It’s easy to say stopping the race resolves the problem. It doesn’t, it creates problems and you damage the race. Obviously you’ve got to think of the riders' health and we did that at Milan-San Remo but we couldn’t do it at the Giro stage last year on the Gavia and Stelvio. Stopping would have put them at risk even more because we didn’t have adequate shelter or the team buses.

Vegni is in favour of an informal agreement between organisers, the riders, teams and the UCI.

"In the past some organisers have perhaps exaggerated in wanting to go in extreme conditions. I think good sense is the best option in cases like that. It’s difficult to find a protocol that fits all the season and every kind of weather. We’re talking about changing the calendar so that people can understand the sport and I think doing something like this (protocol) would also mean that fans will be pushed further away."

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