Michele Acquarone brushed aside criticism from Tom Boonen and other riders about racing in the snow and rain at Milan-San Remo, insisting that race organiser RCS Sport did all they could to ensure riders' safety.
Some riders complained that the race should have been suspended earlier, before the cold and snow left them frozen to the bone and covered in ice. However Acquarone and race director Mauro Vegni claimed they did everything they could, managing a difficult situation and managing to arrange a bus transfer through the snow and then quickly arrange a new start on the Italian coast.
Acquarone personally congratulated Gerald Ciolek after his victory. The general manager of RCS Sport actively supported the MTN-Qhubeka bid for a wild card for Milan-San Remo during the selection process, knowing that the new African team would bring something new and different to the race. He never imagined the team would hit the jackpot and win the race.
"I'm really happy for Ciolek and the MTN-Qhubeka team. I think it's a great project that will help everyday people in Africa. It's sport and charity together," he told Cyclingnews.
"It was an incredible day of racing. One which will go in the history book of the race and be remembered for a long time."
"We knew that the weather could have been bad but nobody expected it to be infernal like it was. We sent people to check out the Turchino and as soon as we realised the snow was sticking, we decided with the UCI race officials to stop the race. We could have cancelled the race or try and do it as safely as possible. We thought it as right to carry on in the rain and the race staff, riders and teams did an amazing job. I can't praise and thank them enough."
Acquarone is from San Remo and so grew up watching the race every spring, almost always in sunny conditions. However he has learnt during his short tenure at RCS Sport that the weather -good or bad, is part of the sport. Football matches are often cancelled but cycling rarely stops due to adverse weather conditions.
"It's easy to be critical afterwards," Acquarone said when told of Boonen's reported criticism.
"I'm really sorry that Tom didn’t make it to San Remo. I would have loved to have a race in the sun, with all the big favourites fighting for victory. But the bad weather is part of cycling. We know that and the riders know that. It's part of what makes cycling special."
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