Reports that the 2017 Giro d’Italia could start in Japan and even climb Mount Fuji have been dismissed as premature by race director Mauro Vegni, but the head of RCS Sport confirmed he is open to exploring the possibility of the Giro d'Italia starting in a different continent in the years to come.
According to Sport/Voetbalmagazine in Belgium and then reported by Tuttobiciweb in Italy, RCS Sport has signed a preliminary agreement with the city of Shizuoka, south of Tokyo, for the 2017 Grand Partenza. Shizuoka will reportedly host four stages of the Giro d'Italia, including a finish on the slopes of nearby Mount Fuji –the highest mountain in Japan at 3776 metres. The riders would return to Italy and enjoy two rest days before the three-week race continues as usual.
In recent years riders have frequently flown around the world for races but this would be the first time a Grand Tour started in a different continent and riders would face such a long flight and time difference during a race. Washington, DC put in a bid for the Giro d'Italia start in 2012 but the idea never came to fruition.
"There's always a lot of interest in the Giro d'Italia and I'm not going to deny that there's been contact with people in Japan but it's very premature to say if anything will come of it," Vegni told Cyclingnews.
"I've been to Japan but for other business reasons, not to talk about Shizuoka hosting the start of the race. I've already said that I hope the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia will start and finish in Italy as a kind of celebration of the centenary, so I think the reports that we've reached an agreement are wide of the mark and premature."
500,000 Euro for each team
Sport/Voetbalmagazine claims the total cost of organising the Giro d'Italia in Japan would be 35 million Euro. RCS Sport would be paid a fee of at least 15 million Euro, which would cover the costs of transportation to and from Japan and give each of the teams a 500,000 Euro fee for accepting the long flight during the race.
It is unclear if the riders and team would accept travelling such a long distance during a Grand Tour or if the UCI would allow the Giro d'Italia to include two rest days so early in the race.
"I'm in favour of developing cycling globally and believe that we have to take the sports' biggest races to new countries and hosting the start of the Giro d'Italia is part of that," Vegni explained. "However we've yet to study the practicality and possibility of a start as far away as Japan. We'd have to work with the riders, teams and the UCI if it was ever to happen. We're not saying yes or no at this point but it's far too early to say it will ever happen."
Cycling links between the Shizuoka region of Japan and Italy already exist. The area has established links with the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy to organise the first Classic Fuji Carnia Zoncolan Gran Fondo mass-participation event on August 30. The organiser of the event Enzo Cainero is key local organiser of stages of the Giro d'Italia and could have sparked the links with RCS Sport.
The creation of the Nippo-Vini Fantini has also strengthened cycling links between the two countries, while rival French race organise ASO runs the end of season Saitama Criterium. Sport/Voetbalmagazine claimed that Asatsu-DK - the third largest advertising agency in Japan and part owned by global advertising company WPP - is involved and is actively seeking other sponsors, especially in the automotive industry.
RCS Sport is keen to raise its income and global profile to boost the finances of struggling parent company RCS Media Group. It has created a company in the United Arab Emirates to organise the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour.
The 2016 Giro d’Italia will start in the Apeldoorn in the Netherlands, with other recent starts in Seraing, Belgium (2006), Amsterdam (2010), Herning, Denmark (2012) and Belfast, Northern Ireland (2014). Talks were held with the mayor of Washington DC to hold the Grand Partenza on the east coast of the USA but floundered after local elections.