Giro d’Italia race director Mauro Vegni has warned the Italian teams to step up and modernise or risk losing out on future wild card invitations to the biggest Italian races.
On Monday RCS Sport announced the wild card teams for the Giro d’Italia, Milan-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico. The Southeast-Venezuela, Bardiani-CSF, Nippo-Vini Fantini and the Russian Gazprom-Rusvelo teams secured invitations to the Giro d’Italia but Androni Giocattoli was overlooked. Team manager Gianni Savio immediately suggested that missing the Giro could spark the demise of the team.
The 2017 Giro d’Italia will be the hundredth edition of the corsa rosa and Vegni is already working to ensure the race is a special moment for Italian cycling. His message to Italian teams seems clear: if they want to be part of the 100th Giro d’Italia they need to plan for the future and start working hard now.
“Italian cycling has got to step up from both an organisational and rider point of view,” Vegni told Gazzetta dello Sport as he justified his wildcard choices.
“Nobody is investing in Italian cycling anymore and the best riders leave for other teams. The governing bodies have also got to do something. We’ve helped the Italian cycling movement in recent years and we won’t stop doing that. But we don’t want to create a situation where just being Italian is enough to secure a place in all our races. We want more than that. We want to see how teams plan to grow and develop, how they plan to help Italian cycling as a whole.”
Italian cycling has gradually lost importance, sponsors, teams and public support as professional cycling became more global, the economic crisis hit hard and the consequences of years of flagrant doping began to hit Italian cycling’s credibility. Lampre-Merida remains the only Italian team in the WorldTour but is dependent on the support of its Taiwan-based bike sponsor.
Italy still produces talented riders such as Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru, Davide Formolo, Elia Viviani and Adriano Malori, but they all race for WorldTour teams outside of Italy. Many of the best young riders turn professional with international WorldTour teams instead of developing via an Italian structure. Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF) was the only rider from an Italian Professional Continental team to win a WorldTour race in 2015, when he won a stage at the Giro d’Italia. Vegni wants this to change.
“The Professional Continental teams have to be a launch pad to the world of professional cycling, so that they help the young riders develop in everything they do and as part of a clear project. I’m not interested in having old riders, who are referred to as 'the guy who won a race years ago…'” Vegni said. “For me, teams like that come after whoever works to develop the future of Italian cycling. I think cycling teams should offer a development structure like football teams do.”