The rumors were already being whispered during this year’s Giro d’Italia that flamboyant race director Angelo Zomegnan might be leaving the race.
On Saturday, the Italian cycling site tuttobiciweb.it published a story that Zomegnan met with high-ranking officials within the RCS organization to discuss his future.
While the story does not quote direct sources, it suggested that Zomegnan could be shown the exit door and added fuel to speculation that Zomegnan’s sometimes confrontational attitude might have cost him some back-room allies.
Zomegnan, 56, took over the moribund Giro in 2004. A former journalist at La Gazzetta della Sport, Zomegnan pumped new life into the Italian race with exciting and challenging courses that reignited interest in the Italian tour among both fans and media. Zomegnan’s innovations reached their zenith in the 2010 edition, in what many called the best Giro in decades.
Racers, however, have long carped that the demands of the Giro are over the top, especially with what they call dangerous stage routes as well as unreasonably long transfers between stage finishes and starts.
Looking to top himself, Zomegnan perhaps went too far in designing the 2011 route that paid homage to Italy’s 150 years of unification by trying to take the race to every corner of the nation. Tensions reached the breaking point over the controversial climb and descent of Monte Crostis, a narrow strip of asphalt high in the Italian Dolomiti that was supposed to be the signature moment of the 2011 Giro. Those dreams unraveled, and despite the efforts of volunteers to add padding and barriers to the harrowing descent, the UCI eliminated the climb and forced the rerouting of the stage just hours before the start.
Speaking to VeloNews at the end of this year’s Giro, Zomegnan staunchly defended the route, but admitted changes were due for next season.
“There are a lot of things to change (2012). We have a lot of obligations. It was the 150th Italian celebration, we had to go to a lot of regions ─ 17 ─ too much. We obliged the riders in the caravan to go in the car. On the sporting side, I have nothing to regret,” he said. “(Crostis) was not my decision. The decision came from the UCI and they know nothing about it. It was a political decision. The UCI man comes, he takes three Garibaldi (Giro road books) and he goes back to his office. And he stayed in his office. The Crostis would not have changed the story of the Giro. The true worry is that these people are making these decisions without knowing anything. We cannot put into their hands our destiny. It’s unbelievable.”
Whether Zomegnan is around next year remains to be seen. He could not be reached for comment Saturday morning.
Several names have been floated as possible successors, including Italian journalist Pier Bergonzi or ex-pro Silvio Martinelli. Right now, it’s all speculation.