Italian champion jersey to feature as race celebrates 150 years of Italian unification
Italian champion Giovanni Visconti and his Farnese-Neri team have been assured that they will be invited to the 2011 Giro d’Italia. Race organiser Angelo Zomegnan made the announcement in Catania on Friday at a presentation of the Sicilian stage of next year’s Giro, from Messina to Etna.
“Giovanni Visconti will be at the start of the 2011 Giro d’Italia, which celebrates the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy,” Zomegnan said. “We could not be without the tricolour jersey in this edition of the corsa rosa. It will be in Sicily on May 15 for a beautiful stage, and it is only right that Visconti be there, as together with [Vincenzo] Nibali and the other 15 professionals from the region, he is doing Italy’s largest island proud.”
Farnese-Neri, known as ISD-Neri in 2010, failed to gain an invitation to this year’s Giro in spite of the best efforts of Visconti, whose year-long consistency saw him top the UCI Europe Tour rankings for the second successive season. The Sicilian rider considered moving to a ProTeam outfit for 2011 but ultimately opted to stay put in a bid to help Luca Scinto’s squad gain access to the biggest races.
“I’m speechless: I’m bringing home the first victory of the year,” said Visconti, who was also present in Catania. “The Giro d’Italia is the most exciting race on the calendar and coming back to Sicily this year means that it will have an even more intense flavour.
“With the tricolour jersey on my back, it will be the best. I have to thank Zomegnan for his faith. We’ll do our best to repay him, both as a team and as individuals, with the aim of winning at least one stage and featuring well in the others.”
Given his Sicilian background, the stage to Etna is bound to be highlighted in Visconti’s road book, but he acknowledged that winning the Giro’s first major summit finish would be a hard ask. Nonetheless, his Italian champion’s jersey should certainly be near the head of affairs come May 15.
“I would make all those people I haven’t seen in so long really happy if I won the stage,” Visconti said. “It would be a dream.”
Farnese-Neri are the second team to be granted a wildcard place at the Giro d’Italia. Androni Giocattoli are already guaranteed their participation thanks to their victory in this year’s season-long Coppa Italia standings.
The exact selection criteria for the remaining Giro teams and the total number of wildcard slots on offer remains to be decided. In 2010, the top 17 teams from the 2009 UCI rankings were invited together with five wildcard teams.
For the 2011 edition of the race, the UCI has intimated its desire that the 18 squads with ProTeam licences be invited automatically, which would decrease the number of wildcard places on offer. However, Angelo Zomegnan has insisted that no such agreement has formally been made with the UCI.
The full list of UCI ProTeams for 2011 is expected by December 10.
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