The chances of Nippo-Vini Fantini and Androni Giocattoli riding the Giro d'Italia appear to have hit a wall, with Italian Federation president Renato Di Rocco admitting that it is impossible for mixed teams to take part in the Italian Grand Tour under current WorldTour rules.
On Thursday the Nippo-Vini Fantini squad launched a last-ditch plea to Giro d'Italia organisers RCS Sport, asking for an exception to be made to allow them and Androni Giocattoli into the 100th edition of the Corsa Rosa this May.
The Italian Professional Continental outfit was not selected as a wildcard for the 2017 edition, and race director Mauro Vegni justified his decision to invite Bardiani-CSF, Wilier-Selle Italia and foreign teams CCC Sprandi Polkowice and Gazprom-RusVelo, saying he had to consider "political and commercial aspects, not only the sporting aspects".
In the press release, Nippo-Vini Fantini explain that they want the UCI to give an exemption and so raise the maximum peloton size from 198 to 210 while appealing for the four Pro Conti wildcard teams to drop a rider each and send eight-man teams. That would make 16 spots newly available, giving the opportunity for two more eight-man teams - presumably Nippo and Androni - to take part.
Androni Giocattoli team manager Gianni Savio had previously launched the idea of a mixed squad containing riders from both teams. However, Di Rocco admitted that there was little chance of the two Italian teams taking part in the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia in May.
"We've explored every possible solution with the Italian Lega Pro, including the idea of mixed teams or mixed national squads. Both have been informally refused because they go against WorldTour regulations. RCS does not intend to change its decision despite some political intervention in Italy," Di Rocco said in a press release from the Italian Cycling Federation.
In their latest push, the Nippo-Vini Fantini team cited a graph published in Gazzetta dello Sport that shows a precipitous drop in the number of Italian teams racing in the Giro d'Italia - from 13 in 2001 down to five upon the creation of the ProTour/WorldTour. The decline follows that in the number of Italian WorldTour teams, which this year is zero. There are four Pro Continental teams from Italy; two of them were chosen for the Giro. However, Di Rocco hit back at these statistics.
"I want to remind people that our country still has a major influence in professional cycling and I use two statistics to do it: There are 61 Italian riders in the (WorldTour) peloton, with their average age lower than other nations. Last year athletes from 42 different countries secured licences in Italy, confirming the central role of our country in the sport," Di Rocco said.
During the recent Dubai Tour, organised by RCS Sport, the director of cycling Mauro Vegni ruled out a changes or additions to his decision on the four wild card invitations.
"Everyone has the freedom to make any proposal they want, but the truth is that as a company RCS Sport has made its choices for the four wild card for the Giro d'Italia and we're not going to change our minds," he told Cyclingnews.
"I've already explained that our choices are based on sporting, commercial and strategic reasons. There's nothing personal against Androni Giocattoli or Nippo-Vini Fantini; they know that. But as a privately owned company, we've got the right to decide who gets the four final wild card teams."