Baby Giro champion Joe Dombrowski finds race’s financial struggles disappointing

The Sky rider says the Baby Giro is "is a big opportunity for a lot of young riders" working their way through the amateur ranks to a pro ride

GHENT, Belgium (VN) — The Baby Giro d’Italia’s financial troubles and possible cancellation does not set well with current champion Joe Dombrowski. He made a name for himself in the stage race and opened the door to the professional ranks, eventually landing at Sky.

“It’s disappointing because that race is a big opportunity for a lot of young riders coming through the amateur ranks,” Dombrowski told VeloNews. “As far as stage races go, that and the Tour de L’Avenir are the two biggest ones. It’s unfortunate to see something like that struggle.”

The Baby Giro, or GiroBio, started in 1970 and saw many riders go on to make successful professional careers, including Francesco Moser and Gilberto Simoni. Along with Dombrowski, current pros Dario Cataldo (Sky) and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) have Baby Giro titles in their palmarès.

Along with the French stage race Tour de L’Avenir, it is the most prestigious stage race for young riders. However, organizer Giancarlo Brocci still owes 45,000 euros in prize money to last year’s teams, according to an article in Tutto Bici, and his plea for teams to help keep the race alive fell on deaf ears.

Brocci asked teams to pay 5000 euros each to underwrite the 2013 Baby Giro. In an open letter published Thursday, the teams declined, saying that they still are waiting for their prize money. The letter practically ended Brocci’s hopes of running this year’s race.

“I’m passionate for the sport, not out to make money,” Brocci told VeloNews. “If the teams can’t help pay, we can’t do it.”

It would be only the fifth time in the race’s history  — after 1987, 2005, 2007 and 2008 — that it has not run. It is not only a black mark for Italian cycling, but also comes as bad news for aspiring amateurs.

“I’d still say that that was maybe the hardest race I’ve ever done, it was truly challenging. It’s the hardest stage race for young guys,” Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski took the race lead early on into the nine-day event last June. He lost it on Siena’s white gravel roads. In the last key stage to Passo del Gavia, he rode away from his competition and into the history books. In its 39 editions, Dombrowski is the only American winner.

“It’s the longest stage race for amateurs. Last year, we went all over Italy, finished on the Gavia, that was a big day. To put something like that together takes a lot of work,” Dombrowski said, adding that it was unfortunate to see a race that’s “trying to do the right things” struggle financially.

“It’s a good project,” he added. “They also work very hard to make it a clean race. The anti-doping polices at that race are pretty strict, they try to keep all the riders together to make it a family atmosphere.

“It’s also a prestigious race and a launching pad for a lot of careers. Here I am now, racing for Sky. It drew a lot of attention to me last year and made it possible for me to decide where I wanted to go and turn professional this year.”