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Giro’s toughest stage? Getting to DC in 2012

Angelo Zomegnan promises a spectacular show if efforts to bring the Giro d’Italia to Washington, D.C. come to fruition for the 2012 edition.

The Giro director told VeloNews that D.C.’s most iconic sites will be incorporated into what would likely be two days of racing in the nation’s capital.

And Zomegnan, a former journalist who knows the power of a good PR, is hoping to rope in a very special pink jersey presenter for the first stage.

“Can you imagine the image for cycling if Mr. Barack Obama presents the pink jersey?” Zomegnan said. “It would be a beautiful way to start the Giro. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start the Giro in North America.”

There’s no word from the president’s office, but Zomegnan is thinking big as efforts to start the 2012 Giro in the United States are gaining traction.

Zomegnan said the bid’s chances are “50-50.”

A delegation of U.S. officials visited the Giro during its departure in Amsterdam earlier this month to get a taste of what’s in store if the Giro makes the unlikely trek across the Atlantic.

Since taking over the race in 2004, Zomegnan has brought new energy to the Italian grand tour by adding such touches as a nighttime prologue, stages over the strade bianche and this year’s time trial finale inside the Roman arena in Verona replete with live music and dancing girls to greet the riders at the line.

But Zomegnan has done nothing as audacious as floating the idea of bringing the Giro to the United States.

And if he can pull it off, he promises to make it a big show with plenty of Giro color and style.

“The first stage would be a time trial around the famous monuments in Washington, D.C. – the monuments to Jefferson, to Lincoln, the capitol – it would be amazing TV images,” Zomegnan explains. “And we could show the American fans the beauty of the Giro.”

Logistics — especially the long flight back to Europe — have always been a stumbling block for previous efforts to bring the Tour de France to Canada, United States or the Caribbean. Teams are reluctant to ship over lots of equipment and riders are wary of the impacts of jetlag.

Zomegnan said details are being worked out to minimize the logistical hurdles and travel problems. Rather than ship loads of equipment to D.C., teams could be supported by U.S.-based logistics operations. Special charter flights would be scheduled to make the flight back to Europe as seamless as possible.

Another idea that Zomegnan has to keep things as simple as possible is to have the opening individual time trial held on regular road bikes and not on specialized TT frames and wheels, which would eat up cargo space.

“We can imagine having the first time trial on regular road bikes, so it’s equal for everyone,” he said. “The second stage would be two circuits around D.C. and finish right in front of the Washington Monument.”

The Giro race director admits that the idea of starting a grand tour in North America is outlandish, but it’s part of the new image he’s been quietly building the past five years.

“The Tour is the biggest race, we want the Giro to be the most beautiful,” he said. “We have many countries asking us to bring the Giro. We could go to Africa, to Asia. Why not to America? Cycling needs to do these things to keep fans interested and give them a reason to stand on the side of the road or to watch the TV.”

A grand tour start in the United States would certainly make headlines. Zomegnan is betting on it.

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