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Grand Tours Should Stay in Europe

For the Dutch (original) version of this blog, please visit De Telegraaf website.

The Giro d'Italia starts tomorrow in Amsterdam. On January 23rd I told the Giro organizers (RCS) that Team RadioShack would not be present at the start due to commitments to our American sponsor RadioShack. We have to start the Amgen Tour of California with our best team. I found it inappropriate to start with a B-team in the Giro. There are too many strong teams at the Giro and I think that you always have to start with ambition in a Grand Tour, which lasts three weeks. To enter a race, it's important to have clear objectives, which must be communicated clearly to the team and each individual rider.  If you don't have these objectives, why enter a race?  Our decision apparently was not very welcomed. A few weeks later, our team was not invited to Tirreno-Adriatico, which is also organized by RCS.

Of course without our participation, my focus is elsewhere. Honestly, I hardly know what the 2010 course looks like. Compared to last year and year's past, there doesn't seem to be as many big names participating. No Lance Armstrong from 2009, no Alberto Contador from 2008. We even miss the complete podium of last year!! Denis Menchov focuses entirely on the Tour, while Danilo DiLuca and Franco Pellizotti are out because of doping-related cases.

I expect the coming weeks to be a duel between Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso. In theory Evans is the big favorite, but I ask myself whether his BMC Team will be strong enough to support him.  Never underestimate the power or weakness of a team. A good outsider could also be Carlos Sastre. He is at his best during the third week, and as far as I know, that third Giro week is really hard and looks decisive. Don’t underestimate Sastre.

 

Many people wonder if the Amgen Tour of California can be – in the future – a competitor for the Giro d'Italia. Personally I don't think so. California currently has only eight "big" teams. The rest of the field is completed with domestic or regional teams. Many riders prefer to stay in Europe as opposed to travel to the US in May and get accustomed to the 9 hour time difference.  On top of that, you have the history and tradition of a three week Grand Tour, as opposed to a relatively new race.  That's nothing against the Tour of California - As we've seen in the past, it's a great race with it's own advantages and appeal.  For teams with an American-based sponsor (like ourselves), the interests are really high in California. We will start there with Levi Leipheimer, who is going for his very impressive fourth straight victory, and three other Americans - Lance Armstrong, Chris Horner and Jason McCartney.  Add Jani Brajkovic, Dmitriy Muravyev, Yaroslav Popovych and Chechu Rubiera to the mix and we have a strong team! HTC Columbia brings Mark Cavendish; SaxoBank Cancellara, Schleck and Voigt; while Rabobank – having a lot of offices on the West Coast - comes with a strong roster too.  BMC is stronger than they've ever been before with George Hincapie.  This will certainly be the most competitive field since the race started in 2006. 

Speaking of the Giro and racing in America - The Giro is considering to start the 2012 edition in Washington DC. Personally, I believe this is not a good idea. I am a strong believer in globalization, but bringing a Grand Tour to another continent is not beneficial for the teams and riders. We need to balance the interests of everyone, but not to the point where you are transfering on a plane for 7 plus hours, on top of a significant time change. A Grand Tour of three weeks is already very demanding. The travels, the jetlag, logistically it is all over the top. I understand we need to commercialize our sport, but not at the expense of riders' health.  There must be other ways for us to make the sport more appealing to fans and sponsors.  But in the end, organizers do what they want. They never listen to riders or teams.  When will we all work together for the greater good?

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