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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

News Flash for February 11, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Cipollini out of the Tour Méditerranéen

Controversy ensues after team's exclusion

By Jeff Jones and Tim Maloney

Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze-Elitron) will not start his season in the Tour Méditerranéen, scheduled to begin this Wednesday, February 12. The Italian World Champion did not consider himself ready to begin racing, as his shocked director sportif Pino Petito explained to Cyclingnews on Monday evening.

"Cipollini did not feel that his preparation was at 100 percent to start the season, and as World Champion he wanted to be at his best," said Petito. "So at the last minute, after the team presentation, he decided not to race in the Tour Méditerranéen."

Cyclingnews also spoke to Domina Vacanze manager Vincenzo Santoni, who echoed Petito's comments, adding that Cipollini would probably start racing in the Trofeo Luis Puig.

After hearing of Cipollini's decision not to race, the organiser of the Tour Méditerranéen, Lucien Aimar, opted to exclude the entire Domina Vacanze-Elitron team, much to the team's anger. "There was no reason for our team to be excluded from the race," said Petito. "It doesn't seem like there are rules any more in cycling."

Race organisers normally have to pay start money to the participating teams, to cover accommodation, travel and food expenses. A bulletin d'engagement is signed by both the organiser and the teams, and constitutes a formal contract. According to UCI rules (see 1.2.052 and 1.2.053), this can only be broken if the team does not show up at all, in which case the team has to pay damages. If a rider doesn't show up, but the team has submitted a full roster with substitutes, then there is no penalty.

"This is really absurd," Vincenzo Santoni told Cyclingnews. "We have a signed contract, we have eight riders and five reserves. That contract needs to be honoured. We were very surprised when we heard threats from the race organisers that we would never be able to ride the Tour Méditerranéen again."

Cipollini doesn't have a great track record when it comes to honouring promises to start in races, but although the organisers are justifiably annoyed by the star's absence, they don't have the right to exclude the whole team, perhaps a renegotiation of the start money at best.

It should also be pointed out that the five day race is partly held on Italian soil, and the Italians are now up in arms about Domina Vacanze's exclusion. Claudio Santi, the head of the Professional Cycling Council of the Italian Cycling Federation, has already expressed his concerns to UCI PCC coordinator Alain Rumpf.

Santi wrote a letter to Rumpf, a copy of which was also received by Cyclingnews. In it he asked for an explanation of the situation, pointing out that races organised on Italian soil need permission from the federation.

"I understand that the non-participation of Mario Cipollini could possibly change the economic aspects, but I would like to understand, with respect to the teams affiliated with us ... whether the regulations and procedures were respected in this situation," wrote Claudio Santi.

It's not the first time that this issue has arisen in the Tour Méditerranéen. After last year's race, there was a dispute about start money between the French teams and the organisers, after the budget didn't stretch far enough to cover all the teams.

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)