The photograph that directs this report was taken last Tuesday, during the resolution of the first stage of the sicilian tour. In the foreground, the sprinter Matteo Malucelli he angrily celebrates his victory, dressed in the colors of the Italian national team. Behind him, we see two other colleagues making a similar gesture. One (the one on the left) is Damiano Caruso, the star of the “Nazionale” in this cycling race; the other is Alessandro Fedelliwho, as a stage winner, had reason to rejoice at the finish of bagheria.
Malucelli and Fedeli are two of the cyclists whom circumstances have transformed, without eating or drinking, into two outlaw. His misfortune was to reach an agreement to run in the Russian team Veil Gazprom-Rusa classic of the second world division in recent seasons (and therefore a squad with sporting and economic guarantees) which was wiped off the map by the invasion of Ukraine.
The Italian national team, the team Italywas the refuge that these two riders and their five other compatriots found who had this season a valid contract with the team now opposed to the continuation of the exercise of their work.
This story, like so many over the past month and a half, begins with the military invasion of Ukraine ordered by Vladimir Putin on February 24. As days go by, the world applies sanctions of all kinds to Russian citizens, companies and organizations. Sport does not escape this dynamic and ends up applying an unprecedented sanitary cordon in war situations.
In the case of cycling, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has decided to cancel all the tests scheduled for this season in Russia and Belarusas well as to exclude from the competitions the national teams of these countries and the private teams based there, unless they manage to change their nationality in a justified way.
This resource was quickly used by Vozrozhdeniyea third category team which has benefited from its links with the Fédération Cycliste de Georgia to register in this country as an amateur team and thus be able to continue its activity. A change of jersey (no shorts) and a new provisional name were enough to receive the green light.
The top Russian team, however, did not find so many facilities. The Gazprom-RusVelo is the only one in the two highest categories of world cycling, running the Giro d’Italia in editions of 2016 Yes 2017and the UCI seems to want to use him to set an example of the firmness of its sanctions for the war in Ukraine.
The team broke its sponsorship agreements with Gazpromthe Russian national gas company, and proposed to the UCI its registration in Italy, where it has important links (its director, Renat Khamidulin), as well as doing so with a neutral flag or with the Swiss, where the company owning the team is registered. Neither option has convinced the governing body of world cycling.
A few weeks ago the RusVelo was forced to suspend all activity, giving freedom to its riders to search for a new team. The problem is that doing it in the middle of the season is not at all easy, with teams’ budgets already committed and in many cases without free chips.
21 runners were suddenly unable to compete, including nine Russians. The others are of various nationalities, including seven Italians and one Spaniard, Jose Manuel Diazwinner of the Tour of Turkey last year, while racing in the ranks of the late Frenchman Delko.
Only the Italians have managed to find a source that allows them to continue on the road from time to time, thanks to the tradition that exists in their country. Excluding high-level tests (Giro, Milan-San Remo, Lombardy, Tyrrhenian…), it is customary for the Italian Cycling Federation to present a national team throughout the national calendar.
In the time before World Championshipserves as a test to test the runners who will chase the rainbow jersey, while in other phases of the season, such as the current one, they usually take advantage of it to give opportunities to the boys who run in small teams, supporting a top-level leader.
However, given the current circumstances, the team leading Danielle Bennati (renowned sprinter who passed through Movistar and retired in 2019) decided to take advantage of these early spring races to give the seven Italians from Gazprom-RusVelo the opportunity to continue competing.
Since the start of the war, Italy has participated in four races: Per Semper Alfredo, Coppi and Bartali Week, Industry Grand Prix and Giro de Sicilia. In the first four Gazprom Italians competed, and the remaining three, the number increased to five. except young people Andrea Piccoloall participated in at least one test. John Carboni, Nicolas Conci Yes Alessandro Fedelli They did it in all four.
“We want to give these boys the opportunity to continue to compete,” he pleads. Robert Amadio, sports director of the transalpine team, in statements to the official website of the Italian Federation. “We thank the federation for allowing us to continue racing, but the UCI should allow our team to be able to do so,” says Fedeli.
The problem for these riders is that the Italian spring calendar is running out. to stay some tests loose in May and June and the activity for the Nazionale will not return until September. So Malucelli celebrated his victory in Sicily with such rage. Because who knows when he has a new opportunity to fight for one.