MILAN (VN) — Italy’s financial troubles have forced organizer RCS Sport to put the brakes on the Giro del Piemonte. RCS Sport, which also runs the Giro d’Italia, announced today that the current crisis put the 100-year-old race in “serious difficulty.”
The race started in 1906, when many sporting events were getting up and running in Europe, and was first won by Giovanni Gerbi. It stands along with Milano-Torino, Milano-Sanremo, and the Giro di Lombardia as one of Italy’s long-running classics.
Rigoberto Urán (Sky) won the event last year on the heels of his silver medal at the London Olympics and a 29th-place result in the Vuelta a España. Over the years, however, cyclists already had to skip the Piemonte due to war, bad weather, road construction, and most recently in 2007, financial problems. RCS Sport introduced another one-day race, Strade Bianche, in 2007, and in 2008 it brought back Piemonte.
This time, the problem is worse. Italy has been one of the hardest hit countries in the current global financial crisis or better yet, the Eurozone crisis. The problem was so bad that Italy removed Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in November 2011 and brought in Mario Monti to lead an interim government.
In the last two years, the situation has hardly improved. Two months ago, the Bank of Italy announced the national public debt reached a new record of 2.0413 trillion euro.
Closed shops and stores packed with slot machines are common themes across Italy at the moment. Race organizers and teams have felt the pinch as their sponsors’ wallets are drying up. At the start of the season, several second- and third-division teams cut back or folded. Acqua & Sapone and Colnago said “ciao” and Utensilnord Named dropped out of the second division.
RCS Sport did its part. It continued promoting its other one-day races and brought back the GP Lazio, re-labeled Roma Maxima. For the Giro d’Italia, it reached out to home teams when issuing wild card invitations. Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, and the Colombian team, run by Italian Claudio Corti, got the nod. Their Giro performances, it was hoped, would encourage Italian companies to support teams and races.
The problem is not limited to RCS Sport. Earlier this year, the organizer of the world championships in Florence fought to scrape up 3 million Euros in needed funds. The Italian federation struggled for someone to organize the women’s Giro, the famous one-day season opener. Other races — GP Donoratico, Reggio Calabria, and the Baby Giro — were canceled outright. What was once a thriving scene and considered the heart of cycling is in ruins like the Roman Forum.
The sad state of affairs prompted journalist Luca Gialanella to write an opinion piece in La Gazzetta dello Sport this winter.
“Tradition alone is not enough,” Gialanella wrote in the Italian daily. “Lack of money, investments, planning … Distrust, fear of doping. We were the lead nation but now we only hold the record for the number of professionals.”
The Giro del Piemonte’s cancellation today only underlined Italian cycling’s problems.