The organisers of the Giro d'Italia have hit back at suggestions that this year's corsa rosa could be reduced to just 18 days as part of an Autumn racing calendar that has been heavily revised due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
There are signs that the historic power struggle between rival race organisers and suspicions of an alliance between the Tour de France and French UCI president David Lappartient are re-emerging after broad plans for a revised cycling calendar were revealed on Wednesday.
The UCI and ASO have confirmed that the Tour de France has been postponed until August 29-September 20, while the UCI Road World Championships remain scheduled for September 20-27.
The UCI stated that the Giro and the Monument Classics would go ahead but did not confirm dates. According to several reports, the Giro and the Classics will overlap in October, with the corsa rosa perhaps being held between October 3-25, the Tour of Flanders on October 11 and Paris-Roubaix on October 18. Il Lombardia could be held on October 31 and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on November 8, during the expected dates of the Vuelta a Espana, which would start in late October.
France, Italy, Spain and Belgium, like most countries in the world, are currently in a state of lockdown, with France reporting more than 15,000 deaths since the coronavirus pandemic began. It remains unclear if the 2020 Tour and other races will ultimately be able to take place on the planned dates – or at all – but race director Christian Prudhomme has looked to sell the Tour as a symbol of recovery.
ASO also controls the Vuelta and seems ready to accept a reduction in the length of this year's race, which would remove the planned start in the Netherlands and the related logistical problems.
However, RCS Sport is against reducing the Giro d'Italia in a similar manner while the Tour de France remains at 21 days, believing it could set a dangerous precedent for the future.
Any reduction in the length of the Giro would mean a loss of income from television rights, stage towns and sponsors, and it would further distinguish the Tour from the other Grand Tours.
"It's the only thing that been talked about for the last two months: how to hurt the Giro, the only real rival that is strong and not allied with the Tour," Giro d'Italia race director Mauro Vegni told La Gazzetta dello Sport. The newspaper, like RCS Sport, is owned by the RCS Media Group.
"They're ready to sacrifice the Vuelta by shortening the number of days and changing its slot in the calendar. The French openly told us to reduce the Giro d'Italia to three weekends instead of four to free up some dates at the end of the season. We've got to defend ourselves."
The UCI announced that national championships will be held on the weekend of August 22-23 with other races scheduled for August so that riders can prepare for the short but intense WorldTour and Grand Tour season. However, Belgium and Germany have already announced that sporting events and mass public gatherings will not be allowed until August 31, making August racing difficult. The UCI's decision to reschedule the national championships before the Tour de France, meanwhile, has angered RCS Sport.
"Paris-Roubaix was perfect for the week before the Tour. Holding the national championships will oblige a lot of riders to travel to their home countries and then leave again. We've used up an important weekend," RCS Sport CEO Paolo Bellino said, revealing his desperation at such a packed race calendar and the subsequent financial implications.
"I've got three objectives: putting on the Giro, putting on a Giro that last three weeks, and putting on all of our races. Obviously, with a calendar that starts in August, it's difficult not to have races on at the same time. But the UCI should be helping us, and I still hope they won't put the duration of the Giro in doubt. That would make things unfair. I'd take that as a sign of a lack of respect, not only for the Giro but for all of Italy."