Conci pleads to UCI to help out-of-work Gazprom riders

Gazprom-RusVelo at the Volta Valenciana
Gazprom-RusVelo at the Volta Valenciana (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Nicola Conci joined the Gazprom-Rusvelo team this season only to be put out of work after the UCI suspended the team following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Now, the Italian has issued a plea on social media pressuring the UCI to find answers for him and his teammates.

"The words of this post are addressed to the UCI," Conci wrote. "It’s 50 days already that me and my teammates of the ex-Gazprom Rusvelo Team have seen our right to do our job being revoked. We have seen our salaries and our goals being suspended.

"We waited and worked with you and CPA in a professional way, but you now need to take your responsibilities and solve our situation," Conci wrote. "The time of answers has come. Stop talking start doing. Our future depends from your choices."

On March 1, the UCI banned all Belarusian and Russian teams from competition as part of a global reaction to Russia's invasion of its neighbor Ukraine, with Belarus serving as a staging ground.

The assault is entering its third month and sports sanctions, including bans on Russian and Belarusians at the Paralympic Games, along with economic sanctions have done little to slow the destruction of Ukraine.

Gazprom-RusVelo were the only Russian-registered ProTeam, while three Continental men's teams: Vozrozhdenie, CCN Factory Racing, and the Minsk Cycling Club men's and women's teams have been similarly affected by the ban.

Meanwhile, the UCI has allowed Russians and Belarusians on foreign professional teams to continue to compete, while foreign riders on Russian or Belarusian teams are suspended. 

The UCI eased rules that cover changing nationalities, adding a provision to allow any licensee to change their nationality, and expediting the process for dual citizens to change their sporting country.

That won't help any of the foreign riders on the Russian-licensed team, however. Most have been unable to find teams, although several riders competed with the Italian National Team at the Tour of Sicily, including Conci, who finished sixth overall behind teammate Damiano Caruso.

Gazprom-Rusvelo, who are based in Italy with a Swiss management company and the German subsidiary of Gazprom as title sponsor, was forced to suspend all activities and allow riders to seek new contracts last month as they searched to rebuild the team with a new sponsor.

Although the team's equipment sponsors Look and Corima pulled out of the team in March, the team hoped to continue with unbranded kit.

“We’d have attracted a lot of attention which could have helped save the team. It was our chance, the riders agreed to the plan and were motivated but the UCI said no and did not help us at all. By not doing anything, they went against us,” team manager Renat Khamidulin said to Cyclingnews.

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