Published on : 23/05/2022 – 14:11

Formerly monopolized by local riders, the Tour of Italy now escapes the Transalpins. Vincenzo Nibali, 37, remains the last Italian to win the Giro in 2016. As the Sicilian native makes his farewell tour of Italian roads, no one manages to emerge to take over from the ‘Shark of Messina’ “.

In Paradise. Sunday, May 22, it was a prestigious victory for the Italian climber Giulio Ciccone, in the Gran Paradiso National Park. Six years after his revelation on the side of Sestola, three years after his assertion in the Mortirolo stage, the rider from Abruzzo has ended a difficult period, between disappointments, falls and Covid-19. Giulio Ciccone, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for two days in 2019, delighted the Tifosi.

But beyond this victory for Italian cycling, the bike is not in Olympic form on the other side of the Alps. While the Giro d’Italia has long remained the preserve of the locals, today none of them is able to climb to the top step of the podium.

Three Italians on the podium in 1999!

In the general classification, while there is still a week of racing with difficult stages, two veterans, Vincenzo Nibali (37) and Domenico Pozzovivo (39), are the two highest ranked Italians, 8th and 5th respectively. Giulo Cicconne is already relegated to more than 15 minutes (16th). Where have the young runners capable of moving mountains gone?

We are very far from the Italian reign. Between 1997 and 2007, the top step of the podium was reserved for Italian riders. In 1999, there were even three transalpine riders on the podium: Ivan Gotti, Paolo Savoldelli and Gilberto Simoni.

Since 2017 and the disappearance of the Lampre team, Italy no longer even has a team in the World Tour, the highest level of world cycling. Between the Tifosi and Italian cycling, it’s a bit We loved each other so much! « After the death of Marco Pantani [en 2004], something has changed in our perception. Until then, cycling and its champions were part of the collective imagination. Today it has become a niche sport, although there are always thousands of fans on the streets at all Italian races “, explains in the columns of the World Matteo Monaco, secretary of the Italian Society for the History of Sport (SISS).

Atypical champion, Marco Pantani had won the Tour de France in 1998. Better still, he had signed a Giro-Grande Boucle double, which only six riders before him had achieved. In 1999, Pantani was excluded from the Giro during the penultimate stage after a blood test revealed a hematocrit level above the authorized limit. Psychologically affected, he will not recover.

Frenchman Sandy Casar, who has participated five times in the Giro d’Italia, the first time in 2003, speaks of a race ” less globalized at the time. ” There was more pressure for the Italians. They were controlling the race, and it was different from today. The race was rather played in the difficulties. There was fervor on the side of the roads. Today cycling is expensive. Finding sponsors is complicated, even if the potential riders are there. Young Italian runners go into exile, it is the consequence of the globalization of this sport “, he explains to RFI.

14 professional teams in the 2000s

The last timeThe Song of the Italiansthe Italian national anthem, sounded at the end of the Giro it was in 2016 with Vincenzo Nibali winning the second Giro of his career, after 2013. The reality is that Italian cycling is currently surviving “, Testifies for RFI Roberto Damiani, sports director of the biggest Italian teams in the 2000s (Mappei, Fassa Bortolo, Liquigaz, Lampre), who joined the French formation Cofidis in 2017. “ In Italy, there are good riders and good supervisors. But they have to go abroad to work. If there was an Italian team in the World Tour, it would certainly be very different. It is a fact. And the youth sector is penalized “, he judges. A rider like Alberto Dainese who won the 11th stage in the sprint learned his trade abroad. Same thing for Filipo Gana, member of the British team Ineos, six-time stage winner on the Giro, and wearer of the Pink Jersey for 2 days in 2020 and 3 in 2021.

« In the 2000s, we had 14 professional teams including four in the World Tour. Today, you can no longer go to a sponsor asking for money without a concrete project. We must have a product to sell. Communication has evolved and we don’t recover 15 million euros so easilyforward Roberto Damiani. There is again great interest in cycling in Italy. We need to detect young people. You have to rebuild a pyramid. But I am unable to say which Italian rider will be the next winner of a Giro. We must not wait for the new Nibali, but work. »

Like the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain, the Tour of Italy is a national holiday that is part of our heritage. And when the pink jersey is Italian, it’s always A particular day.

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