Friday Group Ride #38

In Italian bike racing, Angelo Zomegnan is an important, powerful and sometimes sensitive person. The former Gazzetta dello Sport writer is now race director for the Giro d’ Italia, Milan-San Remo, Tirreno Adriatico and the Giro di Lombardia, all owned and organized by RCS Sport. You will recall that, having been notified that Lance Armstrong’s RadioShack team would not be attending the Giro, choosing the Tour of California instead, Zomegnan chose not to invite the Shack to Tirreno Adriatico either.

Apparently, there was a subsequent agreement, made after Armstrong called Zomegnan directly, to allow Radio Shack to ride in the Giro di Lombardia. In fact, according to the Shack, a contract of some sort was signed guaranteeing them an invitation. Then, Zomegnan decided not to invite the American team after all, and now they have filed a suit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) seeking to be admitted to the last big Italian race of the season.

It has been alleged that Zomegnan’s pique with the Shack began when Armstrong did not appear for Milan-San Remo, as expected. Then, when Armstrong’s team opted out of the Giro, the Italian director wrote the squad off entirely. Whether or not this is the case, and remember that Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén also chose not to invite RadioShack to his race this year, is only conjecture, until Zomegnan steps forward and confirms it.

Shack rider Janez Brajkovic finished second at Lombardia in 2008, so RadioShack believes it deserves to be at the race start. Armstrong himself never planned to be at Lombardia, but Levi Leipheimer had the race on his schedule, so two riders with legitimate chances for the overall win suggests the team was taking it seriously.

This week’s Group Ride asks the question: What should have happened here? Should Zomegnan have invited the Shacks? Or has RadioShack peed in the proverbial pool? Has their decision not to race the Giro given European race organizers the reason they needed to cross the team off their lists? Is it about Armstrong personally? Or is it about the way the team has conducted themselves?

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. jza

    It’s just an example of how a ‘new world’ cycling team has to interact with race organizers with an ‘old world’ mentality.

    Shack thought that explaining that their sponsors didn’t much have an interest in paying for a ‘B’ team to ride the Giro. Classic Late-20th century corporate rationality.

    RCS obviously took offense. Probably because they see an INVITATION to their race as an HONOR. They’re throwing a party and Shack had to stay home and wash their hair.

    Shack should have sucked it up, sent a ‘B’ team and said: ‘We are very excited to be invited to the Giro, we may be unable to contend for the overall, but will ride with an eye for stage wins and breakaway opportunities. It is a beautiful race.’

    Both entities acted predictably. But when you’re working across borders and languages, honor/respect is important.

  2. sophrosune

    I agree with JZA here. RS should have just sucked it up and rode the Giro. Just bad form to refuse an invitation to one of the three Grand Tours, and for the Tour of California no less! RS got their butt smacked as they should and maybe now they understand that respect goes a long way.

  3. Robot

    Does anyone really believe that the invitation just got lost in the mail? Really? And RS appealed to CAS before calling RCS? I don’t buy it for a second. More like Zomegnan tried to stiff them, and then had to back track to avoid fiscal liability issues.

    Am I reading this wrong?

    1. Padraig

      As a matter of objective record, the Tour of Lombardy is raced with eight-man teams. In the last three years there were 24, 22 and 24 teams invited, respectively. This year they invited 25. Are we really to believe they were planning to invite 26 for a field of 208 riders on those roads?

  4. randomactsofcycling

    I think ‘jza’ is on the money here and I think this entire situation is a microcosm of where cycling is ‘at’ during the last couple of years.
    Remember the ‘ProTour’? Wasn’t it supposed to guarantee starting places for the ‘ProTour’ Teams? And didn’t the UCI very quickly find out that it did not have the muscle to enforce it’s own rules!
    Road Cycling is at a junction. There are no traffic lights, traffic circles (we call them ’round-a-bouts’ here in Australia, in case you are wondering what the heck they are saying in a couple of weeks) or lane markings. The Sport either goes 100% Commercial, with a properly organised and committed ‘Pro Tour’ or it stays the same as forever and we have the annual ‘Gunfights at the OK Corral’
    To comment on this individual situation, I think there is as much animosity toward Bruyneel as there is Armstrong. The guy has an ego the size of the Iberian Peninsula. Both of them seem not to have realised that their combined pulling power is not what it used to be. And I have to admit a certain sense of satisfaction in Zomegnan’s actions and in RS not getting the Vuelta invite. It’s childish I know, but don’t you like it when the schoolyard bully gets ‘schooled’ by the High School kids?

  5. Alex

    Maybe I´m wrong but I feel a deja vu thing. Actually to me it´s like this has been happening in cycling since forever. Trade teams, national teams, individuals; riders, teams and races snubbed by big, small or petty reasons from both and all sides…

    It´s all there in the books that tell the history of cycling. Henry Desgrange was battling the Pelissier brothers all over newspapers and for whatever reason, even seemingly irrational or personal ones. What´s new? I feel like it´s just more of the same. Every year we see (sometimes we don´t ´cos it stays off the radar) problems like these happening.

  6. jza

    The ProTour issue is good point……some teams are supposedly obligated/guaranteed entry into the biggest races, yet each of these races still seems to want to be able to work their old boys network and hash out some old grudges when it comes time to send invites.

    And no robot, nobody believes Shack was invited for any other reason than to avoid litigation. But by the looks of things, race entry to ProTour events could be determined by the first teams to file lawsuits.

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