MILAN (VN) — The Giro d’Italia narrowed down its list of 2014 wildcard teams to eight and invited fans to help make the final three-team decision. It announced the teams this week in the midst of an internal investigation into $17.6 million of missing funds.
“Wildcards 2014: which of these teams would you like to see at Giro d’Italia?” organizer RCS Sport wrote to its 187,910 followers on Twitter. “Let us hear loud and clear your support!”
It posted a photo with eight team jerseys: Colombia, IAM Cycling, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, Caja Rural, NetApp-Endura, Novo Nordisk, UnitedHealthcare and MTN-Qhubeka. They will compete for the three available spots. Androni Giocattoli earned the first of four invitations by winning the 2013 Italian Cup classification.
RCS Sport left Italian team Vini Fantini-Selle Italia off its list. The decision was likely due to the doping cases at this year’s race. Both Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio — the latter who won stage 14 and finished ninth overall — tested positive for EPO.
The four second division wildcard teams will race with the 18 first division teams when the Giro d’Italia starts in Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 9. RCS Sport should decide on the final team roster in early January.
Followers quickly responded on Twitter to the organization’s request:
@ernestodiazdiaz: “[MTN] for the social reasons that they do.”
@luke0411: “Teams @UHCprocycling and @TeamMTNQhubeka. … If Giro wants to globalize, they need more than just European teams.”
@heidimo6 “Would like to see @UHCprocycling @TeamMTNQhubeka as wild cards.”
@Sweet_Smile62 “IAM Cycling of course !!! #NoDoubtAboutThis #SwissPower”
Difficult times in Milan
An embezzlement case complicates RCS Sport’s wildcard decision. Race director Michele Acquarone sits at home waiting to return to work and the Milan headquarters pushes ahead amid changes.
In early October, Milano Finanza reported that 13 million euros, the equivalent of $17.6 million, went missing from RCS Sport’s account. RCS Mediagroup had already begun an internal audit of its sports subsidiary and suspended Acquarone and media relations director Matteo Pastore.
Administrative director Laura Bertinotti quit and CEO Giacomo Catano switched departments. Since outside investigators took over, Raimondo Zanaboni replaced Chairman Flavio Biondi.
Contacted this month, RCS Sport Press Officer Stefano Diciatteo lacked additional information on the case’s development. Acquarone told VeloNews he is innocent.
“I know there are people that may think I have a hand in this incident, but I’ve always worked with transparency,” he said last month. “For example, to select wildcard teams [for 2013] I’ve made sure a team was involved. If it was just one person then maybe there would be a risk of someone being bribed by a person or a sponsor to have his team selected.”
VeloNews was unable to contact Acquarone and RCS Sport when it sought additional comments for this article. Acquarone jogs and studies while his colleagues in RCS Sport’s Milan offices review wildcard teams for the Giro and its other races, such as Milano-Sanremo and Tirreno-Adriatico. They all want the storm to blow over soon, maybe in time for the 2014 season.