Welcome to the first stage of my blog, a transparent way to tell you about the behind the scenes work of an organiser. Some curiosities, some reflections, and some secrets that will let you enter into the heart of some of the most beloved events in world cycling: Giro d’Italia, Milan-San Remo, Lombardia, Tirreno-Adriatico and Strade Bianche.
Today, we’re talking about wildcards. As per UCI regulations, the 18 teams with WorldTour licences participate in all races at world level, while the organiser is given the right to invite some second division teams. In our case, we will offer four wildcards for the Giro d’Italia, two for Tirreno-Adriatico (only two here so as to reduce the number of starters and guarantee greater security for the riders who will race on the narrower roads of central Italy) and seven places each for Milan-San Remo and Lombardia.
For the 2012 selection, along with my team, we have studied a method that we might define as innovative and democratic. In the past few weeks, all 22 UCI Pro Continental teams have been asked to submit an application dossier to us. We requested that the dossier would contain some elements which are fundamental for us: the ethical and sporting quality of the team; the existing marketing activities and potential activities that will be created ad hoc for our events; predicted media impact. This choice has been driven by the desire to know all of the teams involved, even those who normally do not participate in the most important races on the world scene, so as to be able to sound out and understand all the terrains, markets and geographical areas in which these teams operate.
Analysing our requests point by point in order of priority, the fight against doping is in first place. On this point we are and will continue to be intransigent. We know well that all the teams respect the rules of the biological passport, but we will give greater consideration to those who are equipped with an ethical code and internal testing procedures.
Parallel to that, we will analyse the sporting value of every team. Champions such as Pozzato, Garzelli and Rujano deserve our respect, but just as important are those teams who are working to develop talented youngsters. Developing young riders means giving a future to the movement and RCS Sport will always reward those who invest in the future. Among the Italians, I would point to Andrea Guardini, 21 years old and 11 wins in 2011, and Enrico Battaglin, another 21-year-old and a rider capable of winning the Coppa Sabatini even while riding as a stagiare. The German Marcel Kittel (22 years old) also springs to mind, a rider who was able to show a clean pair of wheels to people like Sagan, Freire and Bennati in the sprint, as well as his fellow countryman John Degenkolb, born in 1989, who many insiders are pointing to as a sure-fire protagonist of the coming season.
Speaking of new opportunities for cycling, why not also consider the Colombia-Coldeportes team, which starts with the objective of bringing Colombian cycling’s proud tradition back to the highest level, or Champion System, which in 2012 will bring China and its riders into the family of top-level cycling?
Another theme that is very dear to us is communication. We are asking the teams to let us know what marketing channels they will use to promote their participation in our events. Our evaluation will favour those who assure us activities on a global and multimedia basis. A team like Team Type 1, which is spreading an important message of hope through cycling, is an example of this.
The application dossiers must be submitted to our offices by December 31. In early January, our Wildcard Cycling Commission (made up of five members: Giacomo Catano, CEO of RCS Sport; Mauro Vegni, technical sporting manager for cycling at RCS; Marco Gobbi Pansana, RCS cycling marketing manager; Pier Bergonzi, as representative of the editorial staff of Gazzetta dello Sport; and myself) will have the possibility of examining all of the dossiers.
The decision to create a commission was born of the desire to lend the greatest possible balance to our choices, giving a voice to the various spirits of our structure – sport and marketing, but without forgetting the experience of Gazzetta dello Sport, which has created and for over one hundred years supported all of our races with passion and commitment.
On January 10, from 1pm to 4pm, the Commission will meet and deliberate on the allocation of the wildcards, as well as on the fourteen invitations to Strade Bianche. In the hours that follow, we will officially announce the decision to the media.
Thus, the wildcards will come to be announced much earlier than in the past. Traditionally, we looked to delay the decision in order to draw impressions from the first races of the season. We have renounced this privilege in order to give everybody the chance to plan and prepare their seasons as best they can, be they the teams who will participate in our races, or those who, unfortunately, will not be there in 2012.
Some will certainly be unhappy, and we will receive criticism, but if we continue along the path of transparency with teams the fans, we will succeed in building that level of trust that is indispensable in every relationship. Guaranteeing maximum respect so as to command maximum respect, always.
The web and social networks are allowing us to create a dialogue that is continuous, rapid and global. We listen to everybody’s opinions and we respond by seeking to explain our choices. From exchanges of ideas, better solutions normally arise, and I am here today in search of an exchange of ideas.
I have reason to believe that this united approach to team work and daily dialogue with all of the stakeholders will allow us to make the most of every opportunity.
From Strade Bianche to Lombardia, via the Giro d'Italia, Michele Acquarone and the RCS Sport team will navigate the season with us, bringing Cyclingnews readers behind the scenes, as they discuss the challenges that face race organisers and share their fresh and innovative approaches to cycling.
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