Felline ineligible for Italian team says federation president

Italian cycling federation president Renato Di Rocco has explained that Fabio Felline (Geox-TMC) will not be eligible to ride for the Italian national team for another two years.

The 20-year-old turned professional with Footon-Servetto last season, but had to do so with a Spanish racing licence in order to circumvent a rule designed to prevent Italian riders from racing in the pro ranks before the age of 21. In spite of his impressive debut season, which included a Tour de France start, Felline will not be considered for selection for the world championships this year.

“Since 2010, the federation has a regulation which obliges three years of racing as an amateur before turning professional, in order to protect our youngsters,” Di Rocco told Gazzetta dello Sport. “Felline has only done one year: for the next two season, that is, until he reaches the age at which he should have turned professional, he can neither be called up to the national team nor take part in its camps.”

Speaking of the national team, Di Rocco praised Paolo Bettini’s progress to date as coach of the Italian squad. Bettini took over the role from the late Franco Ballerini last summer.

“He is becoming the director general of Italian cycling,” Di Rocco said. “Ballerini used to be out for 180 days – he was an extraordinary public relations man. I ask 60 days of availability from Bettini. He has begun by coordinating himself with teams and trainers, even from the track.

“Then there’s the idea of the mini gatherings, the first of which we’ll announce in a few days and will be for time triallists. There will even be some amateur riders there, selected by [Italian under 23 coach Marino] Amadori, so that they can start on a common path.”

The existence of the Continental tier of professional cycling was called into question by CPA president Gianni Bugno last week but Di Rocco said that he was happy to accept Continental teams, but only if they met strict criteria.

“In 2007, we had refused to affiliate them, and then we accepted them on two conditions: that they would deposit a bank guarantee and the contracts with us, and thus regularly pay all their contributions,” he said. “The result was that of 15 teams only two registered: Miche and D’Angelo-Antenucci. All of the other went away, especially to eastern Europe.

“Continental teams have to give themselves a professional structure, otherwise they are of no use. There are at least 25 amateur teams that are better organised and even the top two or three women’s teams are better.”

Di Rocco also refused to criticise anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri, who has been the subject of some ire in the Italian cycling community after comments he made in October on the prevalence of doping in the sport.

“Apart that expression, ‘all cyclists are doped,’ I am grateful to him, because he has made us lose our sense of self-pity and has confronted our riders with their own responsibilities.”

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