Monday, July 2, 2012

Alarm Bells for Italian Cycling

Considering that the races organized by RCS Sport are the most important in Italy the statements by Michele Acquarone, Managing Director at RCS Sport, must be setting off alarm bells regarding the health of Italian cycling.

As reported by the Dutch De Telegraaf newspaper, Acquarone is quoted as saying, "For many years now, the Tirreno-Adriatico has cost us much and we can not go on like this. I cannot continue to ask RCS Sport to lose more money on this race, especially in times of crisis like these. The problem, in particular, is the television rights: we have a great cast, a great race but few see it because the international broadcasters prefer broadcasting Paris-Nice."

Not only that, there are changes being considered for two of the five "monuments" of cycling, Milan-Sanremo and the Il Lombardia (formerly the Giro di Lombardia). Both races currently take place on Saturdays but that may change as indicated by Acquarone, "These are races that that from the economic point of view are not well and we must reverse the trend, we are considering the possibility of having them held on Sundays."

It was just last week that RCS Sport announced that IMG Media, the media division of IMG Worldwide, the global sports, fashion and media company, would be its exclusive worldwide audiovisual rights consultant and distributor for the Giro d’Italia as the race continues to capture an ever growing global audience. The eight-year agreement, lasting until 2020, also includes Milano-Sanremo, Il Lombardia classic, the seven-day Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, the Strade Bianche race, and the Gran Piemonte race.

Giacomo Catano, the CEO of RCS Sport said, "We are proud to start a long term agreement with the worldwide leader in global sports management. We are sure that IMG Media’s expertise will help us to improve the value and increase the international visibility of the Giro d’Italia and the other RCS Sport races and allow millions of cycling fans to enjoy the beauty and drama of Italian cycling. RCS Sport has a strong international approach and we see IMG Media as the right partner to further develop our global strategy."

One of the changes we may see coming out of all this is the role that Rai, the Italian state owned TV broadcaster, will play...or not play... in the future.

Of course, other races are affected as well by the economic downturn in Italy. As an example, organizers of the GiroDonne, taking place now, faced obstacles in putting on this year's edition. Sara Brambilla, head of the organizing committee, explained: "Despite the critical current economic situation and the non-payment of one of last year's jersey sponsors, that caused us a lot of problems, we are proud to announce that GiroDonne this year will take place as planned. A heartfelt thank you goes to our traditional sponsors and the new ones who believe in our project."

As an aside, I should mention that Il Lombardia, traditonally the last classics race of the season, is moving to the month of September this year from it's normal time in October (October 15th last year). The "Race of the Falling Leaves" ("classica delle foglie morte") has been moved forward to the weekend following the UCI Road World Championships which means it will be held on Saturday, September 29. The rational for this is that riders will directly benefit from their World Championship form. Will this image be a thing of the past?:

Photos: © Philip van der Ploeg, used with permission

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