FGR #38 Wrap

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

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  1. 68GT

    I believe that Zomegnan and Guillen’s reaction was the correct one, which is taking a stand against LA and JB that “hey fellas, there’s more than one race in the world and your indifference towards all other races can no longer be tolerated.” Unless a it’s the TdF or a race preparing for the TdF, those two couldn’t care less about it. It’s fine for an individual racer to pick and choose the races that best suit his, but a DS should build a team than can race from Feb to Oct. And that’s why the Shack is getting the cold shoulder. More power to Zomegnan and Guillen in this case.

  2. Jim

    >>>>a team without sufficient diplomatic nous

    “Diplomatic nous”? What is that? Does it mean “not walking around with your manly equipment hanging out of your zipper”?

  3. KB

    This little “tiff” is all about these races and their head honchos not wanting to be usurped in status or in size by the seemingly teflon-coated Mr Armstrong and his yellow band toting brigade. Even while Mr Armstrong is paddling up the creek sans paddle he still has clout, cache, panache, or whatever you want to call it, that these organizers do not want to contest with. Now, ask yourself, do you blame them? The history, the grandeur, the elite feeling that is conjured up by being the head of these oh-so-Italian events is not something they want to let go of freely. So why invite the one team, the one guy, who can steal their thunder?

    Traditional vs. Modern, maybe. Everyone vs. Armstrong/The Shack, definitely! And do you blame them? After all, we are talking about Italians.

  4. Velomonkey

    So . . . basically you are saying they hate us for our freedoms?!? Sounds like it. Snubbing the giro was stupid, I don’t care who your sponsors are, it was dumb and you take the lumps with it. Building your team solely around 1 rider and dismantling another because said rider doesn’t want to play in the same sandbox is dumb. I mean jeez, own up to it already. Never mind the host of other items that team has around them. Are they alone? No. Are they the only major team who snubbed the Giro? Yes. So own it.

  5. sophrosune

    I am so glad Velomonkey is still here commenting because we so often agree. :-). Yes, pro cycling has traditions. For the most part they are observed with sometimes slavish adoration. They only seem to come into question when they come at the expense of an American team or rider. I engaged another blog (okay, it was the Boulder Report) on the issue of RS not getting invited to the Vuelta. The idea presented was that the snub was based on either concerns about doping charges against Armstrong or was a demonstration of jingoism and couldn’t possibly be the result of sporting considerations. When I pointed out that most of teams were reserved a spot and that the two national teams Caja Andalucia and Galicia were no doubt invited because of their excellent results in recent Vueltas and the GC potential of Mosquera (events have borne out my claim) the decision really came down to Sky and RS. I argued and still do that both teams suck but at least Sky was sporting enough to all the Grand Tours. It turned out badly with viral and bacterial infections forcing Sky to pull out, but it could have very well been a sporting decision. Finally, the Boulder Report acknowledged that he writes for a US-centric publication and considerations that I presented were not of interest to his readers. In other words, Europe bashing and defending US cycling interests even when there not under attack is paramount and certainly supercedes rational discussion.

  6. SinglespeedJarv

    And after all that, it turns out that the invite was lost in the post, or Zomegnan forgot to pick it up when he when to the Post Office.

    Sheesh! What a to-do about nothing.

    A brief aside about two issues this Group Ride raises:
    1) Radioshack. In what capacity are they going to exist next year? No Armstrong to attract interest, the only quality rider left is Horner. Now that the UCI have toughened up on the rules regarding entry to National races and not being able to enter Gila, Bottle is unlikely to win any races next year. Even the heir apparent is considering other offers, which suggest that no matter what his families relationship is with “The Boss”, he’s not wanting his name sullied by being linked to a crap team under the huge shandow of a Federal doping investigation. Also sponsorship runs out at the end of 2011, it almost smacks of a team being wound down already.
    2) There does seem to be a degree of them-and-us regarding US teams and fans and Europe. I can’t say I’ve noticed it in the UK with Sky. But that is possibly a Sky thing.

  7. cthulhu


    Yes, I too wonder how long the team will exist. Not only with that sponsor, that is nearly a given that the won’t continue after next year, but will the team go on? Reading about Phinney’s press conference it looks like the team might close for good after next year. Also Trek signing with that still a bit dubious Team Luxembourg might be an indication.
    It is also interesting to note what he said about Armstrong as he informed the Shack people about the BMC offer. He supposedly walked out half way through and is not reachable for Phinney since then.

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