Giro d'Italia: Zomegnan discusses the state of Italian cycling
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Giro d'Italia: Zomegnan discusses the state of Italian cycling

by VeloNation Press at 9:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Doping
Tougher controls equal less success.

Giro d'Italia director Angelo Zomegnan discussed the state of Italian cycling during the race's rest day in Italy.  He reasoned that the decline in the performance level coming out of his home country is the result of a couple of factors.

"There is a crisis in generations," he told AFP.  "Even if we have young people who can do good things, we've lost some of our best riders like [Paolo] Bettini [ed. retired in 2008]."

Il Grillo was one of top Classics specialists of his generation.  His palmarès include winning the World championships twice (2006,2007), an Olympic gold medal (2004), stages in all three Grand Tours, Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2000,2002), the Giro di Lombardia (2005,2006) and the Clásica de San Sebastián (2003).  Riders of Bettini's caliber don't come along very often, so when he retired he left behind some big shoes to fill.

Zomegnan believes that the other reason for the lack of results comes from the way that Italy handles doping cases in what he calls a "two-speed" sport.

"Italy is currently more like France than in other countries," he said.

"The Italian riders are much more controlled and punished than they are in other countries."

His example will resonate with some: "[Alejandro] Valverde and [Ivan] Basso were in the same situation. One was suspended for two years, the other is still racing."

Both riders were involved with the Operación Puerto doping scandal that broke in 2006.  While Basso served a two-year ban for what he said was "attempted doping", Valverde's case has actively been blocked by the Spanish judge that presides over the case.

Currently the Spaniard is serving a two-year suspension for his involvement with Operación Puerto in Italy that ends in May of next year.  The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) took blood samples from Valverde when the Tour de France visited the country in 2008.  His DNA was matched to the contents of blood bag number 18 that was seized during the Operación Puerto raids.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is deliberating the decision on a joint appeal by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to force the Spanish Federation to enforce his ban to be worldwide.

The Giro d'Italia director criticized the lack of consistency with regard to doping: "In Italy, the riders are much more controlled than in other countries. Of course, this does not mean that all of the others are doped. I mean that there are differences between the federations in this regard. In Italy, it works.  The UCI does the same work for everyone, while some national federations do not punish those that they should."

He compared the situation in Italian cycling to a couple of decades ago: "It is more or less like it was in the 1980s when the Italians did not win major stage races nor great classics. After a sad period will come better days."

As for the lack of Italian ProTour teams, he finds that strictly a financial matter: "This is not a political problem, but one of management. In Italy, taxes are much heavier than in other countries. On a budget of ten million euro, there may be one million euros difference. With this money you can buy good riders and win races."

Despite the decline in results by his compatriots, Zomegnan said he's not worried about the popularity of the sport at home: "I am certain: the first important gift that parents or grandparents give their child is always a bike. We have survey results from spectators of the Giro and television viewers. Cycling is still an attractive sport in Italy."


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