Giro d'Italia: Belfast start in 2014 and accommodating Katusha in 2013 race
Giro d'Italia 2012, stage 17 Dolomites
The Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport has a lot on its plate this week, announcing the 2014 start from Belfast tomorrow and dealing with 19 WorldTour teams.
The organiser sent an invitation on Friday for the "Official presentation of a new collaboration between RCS Sport and the Island of Ireland."
The presentation will take place tomorrow in Belfast at 11:00 and in Dublin at 16:00. It follows the report by French newspaper last month that the Giro d'Italia would begin the 2014 edition in Belfast.
Giro Director Michele Acquarone kept his cards close to a chest when contacted last month by Cycling Weekly. With a laugh, he said, "I don't even know where we are starting in 2013 at this point!"
The 2013 edition starts in Naples on May 4 and mostly stays in Italy, with one stage heading into France to climb Galibier.
With a Belfast start, the race would need to stay in the north for some time as new rules require Grand Tours to schedule five race days before a rest. The 2014 edition may make its "giro" on the island for five days or visit Great Britain before a rest day/transfer home.
It will be the 11th time the Giro has begun abroad.
"It's not that there's more money abroad, but that there are more options," Acquarone told Cycling Weekly. "In Italy we are limited to the 20 regions to host the start."
The Belfast Telegraph reported in October that hosting the start is financially worthwhile. It said that Belfast would have an estimated cost of £3.8m and have a £10m economic impact.
One team too many
RCS Sport must also deal with the Katusha case and one extra team for this year's edition. After Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in Katusha's favour, cycling's governing body, the UCI, admitted it into the WorldTour and allowed for 19 first division teams on Monday.
Tour de France organiser ASO said that it would only take three wildcards instead of four, thus not exceeding the usual 22 teams. RCS Sport, however, already announced its 22 teams on January 8 without Katusha. It must now decide if it will go ahead with 23 teams or bump one of its four wildcard, second division teams - Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela and Colombia.
"I sent a message to Pat McQuaid, UCI president, and I still haven't had a response. We are astonished that no one from the UCI was bothered to inform us, just to work out a solution, before that announcement on Monday afternoon. It's unacceptable behaviour," Acquarone told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"We're always saying that this sport needs to grow, that we need to continue to be more professional and organised. And instead we find ourselves with the game already started, the calendar already made and with an extra team to play."
Acquarone defended his early selection of the teams. RCS Sport then treated Katusha as a second division team and decided not to invite it.
"The wildcards were intentionally announced [early] on Jan 8 to help the teams plan their season. We've decided on locations, measurements of space needed for the buses and team cars, booked hotels, ferries for Ischia. And now we have to re-do it all... To add a 23rd team to the Giro has its cost, at least €150,000."
The UCI initially left Katusha out of the WorldTour for ethical reasons. The Russian team had four of its riders test positive for doping since joining the WorldTour in 2009.