Giro d'Italia

Will new D.C. mayor nix plans to bring the Giro d’Italia to Washington?

A change in political winds in Washington, D.C., could sink plans to bring the Giro d’Italia to North America.

2010 Giro d'Italia presentation in Washington, D.C.
Last year, Ernesto Colnago (left) presented Mayor Fenty with a new custom bike. Giro director Angelo Zomegnan is on the right. Has Colnago asked for Mayor Gray's frame size?

A change in political winds in Washington, D.C., could sink plans to bring the Giro d’Italia to North America.

Giro organizers were hoping to make grand tour cycling history by bringing the 2012 Giro to the nation’s capitol in what would be the first major European stage race to start in North America.

Those plans gained momentum last year when several top D.C. officials traveled to Amsterdam to watch the start of the 2010 Giro. Among those traveling to Holland was then-mayor Adrian Fenty, but he lost his bid for re-election to a second term as the district’s mayor last fall.

Giro d’Italia organizer Angelo Zomegnan said Fenty’s exit has put a speed bump into what is an ambitious program to bring cycling’s corsa rosa across the Atlantic.

“Fenty was enthusiastic about the Giro, but the new mayor has nothing against the Giro,” Zomegnan told VeloNews. “If an idea is a good one, it is not the measure of just one mayor. We have to evaluate the new situation. We are working to see if there is enough time to decide. Now, no decision has been made.”

Last May, Zomegnan said it was “50-50” that the Giro would start in D.C. in 2012. Renewing negotiations with a new administration will likely turn back the clock, but Zomegnan suggested that if it doesn’t happen in 2012, a North American start could still happen in the next few years.

“Before we can say that we will bring the Giro to Washington in 2012, 2013 or 2014, we have to arrive to have everything in the right place, the sporting, political and financial aspects,” Zomegnan continued. “It’s a complicated, but very strong project. The Giro also knows that it is a guest in D.C. It is not our territory. We need to work closely together.”

A new administration led by Vincent C. Gray, who was sworn in earlier this month, is just settling into its new offices.

Whether the new Gray administration will be as enthusiastic as Fenty’s about the Giro project remains to be seen. Calls from VeloNews to the mayor’s office were not returned.

Zomegnan remains enthusiastic, however, about the idea of bringing the Giro to the United States.

“We know this is a new idea, a complicated idea, something that’s not been done in 100 years of grand tour racing history,” Zomegnan continued. “We have to make sure we do everything as well as we can. It’s a bold plan.”

The initial discussions called for two stages to open the Giro before a flight back to Italy to pick up the race in Europe.

2010 Giro d'Italia presentation in Washington, D.C.
The Giro hosted a glitzy reception in D.C. last year.

Logistics and the long flight back to Europe has always been a stumbling block in previous efforts to bring the Tour de France to Canada, United States or even the Caribbean. Teams are also reluctant to ship 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 transfer 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 Zomegnan idea is to have the opening individual time trial held on regular road bikes and not on TT frames and wheels that would eat up cargo space.

“We can imagine having the first time trial on regular road bikes, so it’s equal for everyone,” Zomegnan said in an interview with VeloNews last year. “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. The second stage would be two circuits around D.C. and finish right in front of the Washington Monument. And we could show the American fans the beauty of the Giro.”

Zomegnan hinted there are more surprises in the coming years, whether or not D.C. is on the radar.

“We want to take the Giro international,” he said. “I think the fans and the riders understand that the Giro is working hard to bring something different and exciting every year. We will continue on this line.”