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Giro 2015: Colombia in the cold

MILAN (VN) — The Giro d’Italia left Colombia out in the cold after a successful 2014 season for the nation that included the country’s first win in the race by team Movistar’s Nairo Quintana.

“I thought RCS Sport would have us back to their race,” team Colombia’s Claudio Corti told VeloNews. “I thought that we deserved it.”

RCS Sport named five second-division teams Monday to race the Giro d’Italia, May 9 to 31, on wildcard invites, alongside the 17 first-division teams with guaranteed places. The spots went to four Italian teams — Androni Giocattoli, Bardiani-CSF, Nippo-Vini Fantini, and Southeast — and Poland’s CCC Sprandi.

Corti, the Italian manager of team Colombia, planned on having his team start its third straight Giro d’Italia. Instead, he had to be content with invitations to RCS Sport’s other races, Milano-Sanremo, Tirreno-Adriatico, and Il Lombardia.

Corti directed several Italian teams including Saeco before he took over Colombia, a quasi-national team with backing from the government. He helped the team grow and race its first grand tour at the 2013 Giro d’Italia. In the 2014 Giro last year, Fabio Duarte led the team to two second places on the summit finish Montecampione and Panarotta stages.

It was a big year for Colombia with Quintana becoming the first Colombian to win in the race’s 97-year history and with another, Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick Step) placing second. Only Luis Herrera has gone that far in a grand tour before with his win in the Vuelta a España in 1987.

“This is the strongest generation yet,” Héctor Urrego, journalist for Colombia’s RCN radio, told VeloNews last year.

“The old generation lived, ate, and trained in Colombia but the new guys live here most of the year and know what to expect. It doesn’t compare to when the Colombians came over and raced in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Corti’s 18 ‘Escarabajos’ live and train in Brescia, in Italy’s northern Lombardy region, when they are in Europe. The Colombia team helps them bridge the gap between the two continents. Its former cyclists Esteban Chaves and Darwin Atapuma learnt enough to sign bigger contracts with first-division teams Orica-GreenEdge and BMC Racing, respectively.

Without Corti’s team and since Quintana is aiming for the Tour, the 2015 Giro will feel considerably less Colombian. RCS Sport opted for team CCC because it said it is a young team and offers business opportunities for the race organizer in Poland. The team in orange includes mostly Polish cyclists, but a handful of foreigners.

Two cyclists stick out: Italian Davide Rebellin and German Stefan Schumacher. Rebellin won all three Ardennes Classics in 2004 and in 2008 placed second in the Beijing Olympics. Schumacher won both time trial stages in the 2008 Tour de France. Both cyclists tested positive for blood booster drug, EPO, in 2008.

“I know Claudio Corti is upset, but his team is racing our other races,” race director, Mauro Vegni told Tutto Bici.

“CCC is young and opens the door to a market we are interested in. Plus, it’s not for sure that Rebellin and Schumacher will race the Giro.”

“We are superior on an ethical level, on a sporting level, in organization than the teams selected, and my team is also Italian in a sense, but it went the way it went,” Corti continued.

“It was probably better I didn’t talk to Mauro yesterday. Considering the teams that they put in, it looks like a political decision.”

Corti explained that he Giro disappointment could open other doors for the team. He is asking organizer Unipublic for an invitation to race its climber-friendly Vuelta a España in August and September. The race features nine summit finishes that would suit the small ‘Escarabajos’ from Colombia.

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