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Neri Sottoli’s future unclear without MPCC membership

The Italian Pro Continental team focuses much of its season on the Giro, but with a recent MPCC suspension, its plans may be in flux

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MILAN (VN) — Italy’s Neri Sottoli team remains confident even without its membership in MPCC and with its UCI license still under review. Wednesday, the voluntary anti-doping group suspended the team. In a Thursday press release, the UCI announced that Neri Sottoli — known as Yellow Fluo to the governing body — is still under review by the license commission.

“I don’t know what the Giro d’Italia organizer will do now that we are not in the MPCC,” general manager Angelo Citracca told VeloNews. “Even if we don’t race the Giro, though, we will continue as a team.”

Neri Sottoli won the 2014 Coppa Italia race series that gives it a front-of-the-line spot to participate in the 2015 Giro. In recent years, Giro organizers invited the winning team to participate in its race. Last year, Team Androni won the cup — a series of UCI .HC and .1 races — and received the first of four Giro invitations.

Only the 18 first-division teams in the WorldTour have the right to race in the top events such as the Giro d’Italia. Second-division teams must ask for invitations, which are limited, in the case of the Giro. Organizer RCS Sport is expected to reward four in January as it did last year for its 2014 race.

RCS Sport did not wish to comment when asked by VeloNews about the recent development, but after past cases, it may consider the MPCC’s move, and the team’s past, and not invite Neri Sottoli.

Neri Sottoli, in its neon yellow and black kit, raced the last four editions of the Giro. For many Italian teams, participation in the three-week stage race makes or breaks their season.

“I’m still hopeful for an invitation,” Citracca said. “We won the Coppa Italia, and we follow the UCI’s rules, really the only rules that should matter.”

Citracca was considering beefing up his team with riders like Alessandro Petacchi in preparation for the 2015 season. However, his team’s past is causing problems.

Neri Sottoli — or Vini Fantini and Yellow Fluo as it was called — raced its home grand tour with many ups and downs since 2011. Its bright yellow looked the darkest in the 2013 edition when two of its cyclists, Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio, tested positive for EPO. Santambrogio won a stage and placed ninth overall — results that were stripped.

Regardless of criticism, RCS Sport invited the team back in 2014 in an effort to support its home teams. The team’s biggest impact, however, came after the race when its star rider Matteo Rabottini — winner of a stage and the mountains classification in 2012 — failed an anti-doping test for EPO.

“Remember, he is still waiting the counter-analysis of his B sample,” Citracca said. “The MPCC is making decisions based on riders who are not officially positive.”

The Italian manager added that, for now, he is finished with the MPCC and that more questions should be raised about having two sets of rules. The MPCC is a voluntary group with stricter anti-doping rules. Its cortisol rule forced Chris Horner to sit out the 2014 Vuelta a España because his Lampre-Merida team is a member.

UCI president Brian Cookson said that he wants to have one set of rules to avoid confusion and that he would work with the MPCC to do so.

“The MPCC should be looked at. We joined the group because we felt we had to, but really, we pay our money to the UCI and we should just be following its rules,” Citracca said.

“We will have to see what the Giro organizer does. I don’t think it will change our racing plans much for 2015, maybe just cause us problems for the French races.

“If we don’t race the Giro in 2015, it’s not the end of the world, the organizer already invited us in 2014 when everyone thought that we shouldn’t race.”