New Giro director promises to ‘respect’ riders; Washington prologue idea on hold

New Giro d'Italia race director Michele Acquarone says the 2012 edition of the Italian tour will be "more respectful" to the riders and said plans to take the Giro to the United States are on hold.

Giro d'Italia race director Michele Acquarone
Acquarone at the Tour of Beijing. Photo: Andrew Hood © VeloNews

New Giro d’Italia race director Michele Acquarone says the 2012 edition of the Italian tour will be “more respectful” to the riders and said plans to take the Giro to the United States are on hold.

Acquarone, who takes over the head of the Italia tour following the departure of Angelo Zomegnan, said the Giro will focus on expanding its base in Europe before trying to cross the Atlantic.

“It’s a dream to bring the Giro to America, because I believe in global sport,” Acquarone told VeloNews. “I call it a dream because it is a dream. Right now, the Giro will not go to D.C., not to China. First, we have to do a good Giro for the racers and the fans.”

Efforts to bring the Giro to Washington, D.C., was a pet project of Zomegnan, who was forced out of his role as Giro director following the controversial 2011 edition of the race that saw long transfers, brutal stages and the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt.

Plans gained steam during the 2010 Giro, when D.C. officials visited the Giro during the start in Amsterdam. Zomegnan and D.C. leaders were close to a deal, but the plan has since stalled.

A new D.C. mayor, intent on reducing costs on the city’s budget, and Zomegnan’s exit from the Giro’s top spot have put the brakes on ambitious plans to make the Giro the first grand tour to start in North America.

Instead, Acquarone said the Giro will focus on its European base in the coming years. The 2012 edition is set to start in Denmark, marking what will be the most-northern departure for a grand tour.

He said worries about jet lag are a major hurdle in trying to bring the Giro to such far-flung places as D.C. or even China.

“I would like to touch all the European countries,” he said. “We would like to take the Giro show every two or three years to other countries and grow the Giro.”

For next year’s edition, Acquarone promised fewer transfers and less extreme demands.

“We will take care of the riders. We want them in top shape,” he told VeloNews and another reporter during a visit to the Tour of Beijing last week. “We will have a more balanced race.”

Under Zomegnan’s watch, the Giro grew in statue and prestige, but his routes were largely criticized as too difficult with too many long, post-stage transfers between host cities.

Acquarone promised the new race leadership will build on Zomegnan’s legacy, but with a more human touch to the demands of three weeks of racing.

“It’s in our DNA to have a tough Giro,” he said. “We will have shorter transfers. Riders will have more chances to recover after a hard stage, with an easier stage after a hard stage.”

Acquarone comes from a marketing background and has worked at RCS MediaGroup for more than a decade, including eight years promoting Gazzetta dello Sport.

Acquarone admits that he is “still learning” about cycling and suggested that he is going to work as part of a team, a managing style that will be a marked contrast to Zomegnan’s “take-it-or-leave-it” approach.

Acquarone reconfirmed the 2012 Giro will include a stage that crosses the Mortirolo and ends atop the Stelvio for just the fourth time in Giro history.

“We asked our fans on Facebook about their favorite climbs in the Giro and they said the Mortirolo and the Stelvio,” he said. “So we said why not have both of them in the same stage?”

Some details of the 2012 were leaked this week and the official route will be unveiled Sunday in Milan.