I have never before, in 37 attempts, had a Group Ride fall apart within minutes of clicking the Publish button, but last week, that very thing happened. It couldn’t have been ten minutes between the moment I finished writing about Angelo Zomegnan’s failure to invite Team RadioShack to his Giro di Lombardia, and the moment the VeloNews alert hit my in box, declaring the whole thing a misunderstanding.
The only misunderstanding going on, I think, is the powers of the pro peloton thinking we didn’t see through the last minute reversal. The story here, of course, is not really about Zomegnan and RadioShack.
Yes, the Shack stood the Giro d’Italia up, turning down an opportunity to race Italy’s most important race. Yes, Zomegnan was pissed off, offended. The decision not to field even a second string squad for the Giro was offensive, even if it was obvious that the Shack’s American sponsor was going to be more interested in appearing at the Tour of California, which ran concurrently. This is a pissing match between a team without sufficient diplomatic nous to appear humble even when they are not, and a race director looking to plant a stake in the ground as regards the importance of his race.
More than that though, this is about traditional cycling pushing back against the tide of modern cycling. Whether you view the Giro as an old world race and the Tour of Cali as a new school impostor, or you view the doping allegations that dog Lance Armstrong and his cadre of red and gray riders as a sign of the coming apocalypse, this little tiff over the Tour of Lombardy encapsulates many of the tensions seething within pro racing.
Are Zomegnan and his Vuelta a España counterpart, Javier Guillen, objecting to RadioShack’s general comportment, or is this a not-so-subtle way for the Europeans to push back against the globalization of the sport? Are they trying to keep suspected dopers out of their races, or are the doping allegations simply a pretense for playing out their prejudices against the nouveau riche of the sport?
By chalking this little flap up to a clerical error, a breakdown of communication, is to paper over the cracks.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International