VITTORIO VENETO, Italy (VN) — What’s a Giro win worth? That much depends on who you ask.
A stage win for a second division team in the Giro d’Italia takes on different meanings than one for a larger team. Bardiani-CSF already has three stage victories in the 2014 edition, and regards its participation an absolute success. But wins aren’t everything; the other three wildcard teams consider more than just victories when evaluating their Giro campaigns.
“A stage win is the icing on the cake. It can open up the future and it is what we miss. It’d be the realisation of a dream for us,” Colombia sport director Valerio Tebaldi said. “It’s more important for teams Androni-Venezuela, Bardiani-CSF, and Neri Sottoli, though, because they have private sponsors. It’s not a make-or-break thing for our team.”
Colombia’s sponsorship money comes from the country’s government, with the hope of lifting the level of its cyclists to the World Tour ranks. This winter, Esteban Chaves made the move to Orica-GreenEdge and Darwin Atapuma to BMC Racing. Chaves won a climbing stage at the Amgen Tour of California earlier this month.
“A stage win for us, though, would help us towards gaining an invite to the Vuelta a España, or Tour de France,” Tebaldi said. “We are on a good path already. The race organizations want a national team, one from Colombia. If we are able to win, it would get ASO to open up its door to the Vuelta or the Tour.”
The other three teams, all Italian, may look at the game differently since they have Italian sponsors and are racing in their country’s home tour. When Enrico Battaglin, Marco Canola, and Stefano Pirazzi took Giro stage wins, newspaper stories and television time came complete with images of their neon green Bardiani jerseys. That means a lot to teams that are operating on relatively small budgets of between $4 and $5.5 million.
“What I want to know is why are the teams who are spending millions and millions not winning?” said Luca Scinto, sport director for Neri Sottoli. “The Giro organization is lucky to have the second division teams because the World Tour teams do not put on much of a show.”
Last year’s EPO disasters aside (when the team raced as Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Scinto’s squad has put on a show here. It won a stage with Oscar Gatto, ahead of Alberto Contador, at the 2011 race. The next year, in 2012, it won two stages: Andrea Guardini out-sprinted Mark Cavendish and Matteo Rabottini held off everyone to win a rain-soaked stage to Pian dei Resinelli.
“And what were those wins worth?” Scinto asked. “We were still waiting on the edge of our seats with our hearts beating quickly to find out if we were going to receive a wildcard invitation to the 2013 race.”
Scinto said that his sponsors look at the results in the Giro d’Italia, but that’s not all. The backers want to see that the team is visible year around, winning and on the attack.
“But not too much!” Scinto said. “The second division teams often offer contracts that include a bonus for wins, more for higher ranked races like the Giro d’Italia. If a rider wins here, we have to make sure we have the money to pay him and the money to keep him in the team.”
A stage win is not just a stage win, or so it seems in the Giro d’Italia. It creates some complications, but also confirms the team position, gives it publicity, and opens the doors to brighter futures.