The days of ex-pros racing to win Italian granfondos are over, with the country’s national cycling council moving to make former professionals ineligible for winnings and ranking points.
To resurrect the appeal of granfondos for enthusiastic amateurs put off by the superiority of ex-elites, the Consulta Nazionale del Ciclismo (CNC) ruled this week that elites and top amateurs will not be eligible for prize money for a period of five years after their licence expires.
The issue was highlighted by 2012’s Granfondo Inkospor Casciana. It was won by Raimonidas Rumšas, who finished third in the 2002 Tour de France but was banned in 2003 for failing an EPO test. Five of the top six at the granfondo, including Mario Cipollini and Massimiliano Lelli, had at least competed in events of a national championship level.
Angelo Garcia of the Italian Cycling Journal, a blog focusing on Italian granfondos, welcomed the CNC’s decision but said more work needed to be done to take events back to their roots – and weed out cheating. "The cheating, the drugs, the ex-pros in granfondo racing was (is) out of hand," he told BikeRadar.
The explosion in the popularity of granfondos – both in Italy and around the world – has attracted large sums of prize money and made the events a lucrative sideline for ex-pros.
Some races have even been marred by amateurs failing doping tests. At last year’s Gran Fondo New York two riders, including the winner in the 45-49 category, David Anthony, tested positive for EPO. The top prize was an US$8,000 bike.
And, in 2011, Italian ex-pro Riccardo Riccò was caught joining the Gran Fondo Prologo-Giovanni Lombardi after 10km to help his friends achieve a better result.
The CNC’s move won’t affect gran fondos in the FiveStars league, which includes the Felice Gimondi, Sportful Dolomiti Race, La Pinarello Cycling Marathon, Nove Colli Granfondo and Maratona Dles Dolomites. They had already ruled out the eligibility of ex-pros for prize money.
Former professionals will still be allowed to attend gran fondos at the invitation of the organisers, for publicity purposes.