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Giro d'Italia

Vegni on Sagan, defending his Giro route, and rumors of a ‘virtual’ prologue

Giro d'Italia director open to innovation and globalization of a race renowned for its entertainment and unpredictability.

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FELTRE, Italy (VN) — Mauro Vegni is a busy man each morning before the start of any stage at the Giro d’Italia.

As director of the Italian grand tour, he does much more than organize one of cycling’s biggest events. Much of his job is glad-handing and meeting with local politicians, VIPs and sponsors. There are always last-minute issues to deal with, from weather issues to crowd control to changes in the route. Vegni deals with it all with dramatic flare and a calm hand.

Under Vegni’s watch, the Giro has continued its evolution as one of the most entertaining and unpredictable races of the season. Vegni looked on with pleasure as the race remained undecided going into the final weekend of racing. Yet there have been suggestions that this year’s route lacked some of the sparkle and innovation that recent editions have brought to the sport.

Vegni took a few moments before Saturday’s penultimate stage of the 2019 Giro to speak to VeloNews to defend the route of this year’s edition, about whether Peter Sagan will finally start the corsa rosa, and on those rumors that next year’s Giro could start with a virtual prologue. Here are excerpts from the interview:

VeloNews: Every Giro is different, so are you content with how this Giro d’Italia is unfolding?
Mauro Vegni: I would say yes. This Giro has always had interest and suspense, and it’s building up all the way until Verona. It’s a shame we lost some of the protagonists because it probably would have been even more interesting. Anyway, we are happy with the way the race is going. It’s not decided yet.

VN: This Giro seems to be an old-school edition, with its entirety in Italy, with a lot of flat stages, and everything packed into the final week; what was the idea behind the route design?
MV: The idea was to have two time trials on the first two weekends — climbing time trials — and if we had included a climbing stage in the first week, it would have been too demanding in my opinion. And I think it would have defined the GC too much as well. So we included a mix of stages, for the sprinters and for the others, like L’Aquila and San Giovanni Rotondo. And some of those stages were very controlled. The race has since evolved in another way, and originally it should not have been like that.

VN: This year there are many longer stages more than 200km. Some say there’s no place for these longer, flatter stages in modern cycling, that the same result is derived from a stage that’s 160km. What’s your view?
MV: I think cycling is a sport made for those who have the capacity for hard work and sacrifice. I am not convinced that the shorter stages bring the spectacle. The longer stages show the resistance of the riders. The winner a grand tour like the Giro has to be a complete athlete, who is physically and mentally strong. So I do not share that idea at all.

VN: The Giro has always been on the cutting edge of what a grand tour can look like, what innovation can we expect for the future?
MV: The Giro has always been an innovator in cycling. We have new ideas for the future that will be equally innovative. The Giro also has to look more into the larger world, beyond Europe. The idea of always starting in Europe is one that I do not agree with because I think cycling needs to be international. Everyone talks about globalization of cycling, but you do that by taking the race to new countries, like we did with Israel. So then the rules that say you have to have one day more of rest or not, well, that makes me laugh, because we lose important opportunities to take our product into countries that are economically strong but that do not know what cycling is.

VN: What about the rumors that next year’s Giro will start with a “virtual” time trial stage, like a Zwift-style stage?
MV: Let’s just say, just like everyone else, we have to look to the future. And by doing so, we are looking to bring a younger public closer to cycling. A public that also in a virtual way can also compete against the champions that ride the route every day. Why not? We are working on it.

VN: And will Peter Sagan finally race the Giro next year?
MV: Well, nothing is confirmed. Let’s wait. Nobody has said that he cannot be one of the protagonists next year. Who knows. In the future we hope to see Peter Sagan in the Giro.