Giro d'Italia to look abroad for wildcards?

RCS is set to announce the four wildcards for the 2012 Giro d’Italia before the turn of the year, and new race director Michele Acquarone has hinted that some home teams could miss out as the corsa rosa looks to widen its international appeal.

After receiving dispensation to hand out five wildcards in 2011, RCS handed four berths to Italian teams (Androni Giocattoli, Acqua e Sapone, Colnago-CSF and Farnese Vini), with the fifth awarded to an Italian sponsor (Geox-TMC). However, Acquarone has suggested that the 2012 Giro will look to encompass a broader spread of nations.

“For these four wild cards, I would like to favour foreign teams who might widen the sphere of interest in our race – for instance, a German or Chinese team that would otherwise be absent. But I know that we will have to find a compromise,” Acquarone told Bici Sport magazine.

Lampre-ISD and Liquigas-Cannondale are the only Italian teams at WorldTour level, and the Giro has become increasingly reliant on its wildcard invitations to boost the size of the home contingent at the race in recent years.

“I know how important it is for our tifosi to see their own favourites on the road, but the Giro also needs fans in the rest of the world. In that way, in the future we can guarantee ourselves more resources and more attention from teams and champions.”

Last year, the winner of the season-long Coppa Italia classification was granted one of the Giro’s wildcard berths, but Acquarone explained that the deal between his predecessor Angelo Zomegnan and the Italian cycling federation was never formalised.

Androni Giocattoli qualified for the Giro by this route in 2011, but in spite of repeating their Coppa Italia triumph this season, Gianni Savio’s men are thus not yet guaranteed their place at next year’s Giro.

“I know of an agreement between Angelo Zomegnan and Renato Di Rocco to admit the winning team from the Coppa Italia, but I haven’t found any written document,” Acquarone said.

With the final make-up of the WorldTour due to be confirmed on December 10, RCS is set to unveil its wildcard invitations in the next month. “I hope top announce the four chosen teams before the end of the year, or within fifteen days of the date on which the UCI confirms the [WorldTour] registrations,” Acquarone said.

In spite of the desire to bring the Giro d'Italia to an international audience, exemplified by the race's start in Denmark in 2012, Acquarone insisted that its spirit and traditions would remain sacrosanct. "If I have understood one thing about this sport, it's the value of its tradition, its history and its champions," he said. "And a future that doesn't take account of that would be a future without hope."

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