The Androni Giocattoli and Nippo-Vini Fantini teams have expressed their shock and disappointment at being snubbed for a wild card invitation to the 2017 Giro d'Italia, with sponsor Androni Giocattoli going as far as threatening to quit the sport in disgust.
The two Italian-based teams believed they deserved a place in the 100th edition of the Corsa Rosa but were only invited to Tirreno-Adriatico when RCS Sport announced the wildcard invitations to their spring races.
RCS Sport awarded the four Giro wild card invitations to Italian teams Bardiani-CSF and Wilier-Selle Italia, plus CCC Sprandi of Poland and Gazprom-Rusvelo of Russia.
Bardiani-CSF secured its invitation after winning the Coppa Italia season-long competition in 2016, while Gazprom-Rusvelo was invited to the 2016 Giro d'Italia and won the mountain time trial with Alexander Foliforov. The team is also backed by Italian bike brand Colnago.
Polish-based CCC Sprandi secured a wild card in 2015 and it has been suggested a possible Giro d'Italia start in Poland in 2018 could have helped them this time. Wilier-Selle Italia arguably has a weaker roster than its Italian rivals but has two respected Italian sponsors and will have Filippo Pozzato and talented young sprinter Jakub Mareczko in its probable Giro d'Italia line-up.
Androni Giocattoli manager Gianni Savio is a master of surviving in cycling's lower ranks despite tight budgets and he and other Italian managers were recently cleared of any wrong doing in the 'Pay to Race' investigation into fraudulent rider payments and sponsorship deals.
Savio has been in the sport for decades and often fishes talented riders from South America, who then go on to attack in the mountain stages of the Giro d'Italia. He was hoping young Colombian Egan Bernal would help secure an invitation to this year's Giro d'Italia. However Androni Giocattoli missed out in 2016 and even a last minute social media campaign listing 100 reasons why they deserved a wild card failed to secure an invitation this year.
Savio had told Cyclingnews on Monday that Vegni had talked of a turnover amongst the Italian teams and so he was disappointed to find out his team was only invited to Tirreno-Adriatico.
"It's a huge act of injustice, both morally and sportingly," Savio said in a brief statement from Venezuela, where Androni Giocattoli is riding the Vuelta al Táchira.
"It's a very hard blow for our team. When I return from Venezuela I'll organise a press conference to explain our thoughts and make our voice heard."
Sponsor Mario Androni went much further and spoke out much sooner than Savio, announcing the end of his sponsorship.
"The news was like a cold shower, I'm very disappointed because I was convinced that after a year out there was a place for us in the Giro d'Italia," Androni told Italian website Tuttobiciweb.
"I'm not one for hysteric reactions but when I take a decision, it's final. Last year we made an evaluation and decided that if we weren't invited in 2017 my experience as a sponsor in cycling would be over. I was clear about it a year ago and I confirm it now.
"I don't want to enter into the merits of the decision take by the people of the Giro d'Italia. I'll only say that the Androni company is about to end a spell that has given us huge satisfaction."
Androni did not say when the sponsorship would eventually end. Sponsorship contracts have been registered with the UCI for the 2017 season and Savio has agreed contracts for the 2017 season with all his riders.
Nippo-Vini Fantini calls for help from the Italian Federation
Nippo-Vini Fantini added Alan Marangoni from Cannondale, Julian Arredondo from Trek-Segafredo and former Italian national champion Ivan Santaromita for 2017. It also has solid backing from Japanese sponsor Nippo as part of a project to develop Japanese cycling for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Veteran team leader and 2004 Giro d'Italia Damiano Cunego is still admired in Italy but it was not enough for the team to secure a wild card invitation.
"I can only take note of the decision by RCS Sport," team manager Francesco Pelosi told Tuttobiciweb, asking why special dispensation wasn't made to help the Italian teams.
"Why isn't the Federation working with RCS Sport to find a solution and have some extra wild cards? Reducing the size of teams to eight riders could have been an experiment and allow two other two teams to be invited.
"They could also have asked for a special permission to have more teams considering it's the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia. Instead we've lost a chance for everyone to work together to help Italian cycling and look after RCS Sport interests. Italian teams deserved more attention and consideration from everyone."
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