Riccardo Riccò will make his debut in Vacansoleil colours today at the Giro della Romagna and has affirmed that there is “very little romanticism in cycling.” It is the Italian’s first competitive outing since the GP Camaiore on August 7.
In the intervening period, he bought out his contract with Ceramica Flaminia and after negotiations with QuickStep and Vacansoleil, he opted to switch to the Dutch team. This is Riccò’s first season back in the professional peloton after he received a two-year suspension for testing positive for CERA at the 2008 Tour de France.
“I already know [Matteo] Carrara and [Alberto] Ongarato, and they’d told me that the Vacansoleil team would suit me,” Riccò told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “But in the end, the story is always the same: you have to ride.”
The controversial Italian admitted that he may struggle from his lack of racing miles in recent weeks but insisted that his ambitions were high for the remainder of the season. “For the Giro della Romagna, I’m missing my race rhythm, but I won’t back out,” Riccò said. “I’m aiming for the Coppa Sabatini, Giro dell’Emilia and the Tour of Lombardy, they all suit me.”
“The team have also told me that the GP de Wallonie is made for me,” he continued. “I’ve never done the Tour of Piedmont before, but I have ridden – and won – the Japan Cup. It would be beautiful to go back there.”
After returning from his ban in March of this year, Riccò’s season has been very much stop-start in nature. With his Ceramica Flaminia team failing to receive an invitation to any of the Grand Tours, Riccò’s racing has been confined to events away from the ProTour, which prompted his desire to leave the very team that offered him a route back into professional cycling.
But Riccò seems unconcerned by the fact that his unusual mid-season transfer may set a troublesome precedent. “Why shouldn’t it be done? They do it in football,” he said. “If I have to choose between a more advantageous notion and a more romantic one? I choose the more advantageous one. There’s very little romanticism in cycling.”
“I do my job and if they took away my character maybe I’d only be half as strong,” Riccò explained. “I’m like that: take it or leave it.”
Finally, when asked by La Gazzetta if he was now riding on bread and water alone, Riccò tried to make light of the question. “Of course,” he said, before adding: “Well actually, no: I ride on muesli and orange juice.”
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.