• Gianni Savio (right) has long been an important player in Italian cycling (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Underhand dealings in two Italian Pro Continental teams have resulted in the suspensions of two key figures within Italian cycling.
Cycling Central

28 Mar 2017 - 10:51 AM 

The team managers of Androni Giocattoli and Wilier Triestina, both Italian Professional Continental teams, have been banned for three months after the so called 'pay to race' case was referred to an appeal court. Angelo Citracca and Gianni Savio will now not be allowed to work with their teams or attend races, which will rule Citracca out of the Giro d'Italia with his Wilier Triestina squad. Charges against the Bardiani-CSF manager Bruno Reverberi were dismissed after he was found not guilty.

Marco Coledan, now riding with Trek-Segafredo but a former Bardiani-CSF riuder, is also on a 15-day ban after failing to cooperate with the investigation, despite evidence implicating him in the 'pay to race' allegations. It comes at a bad time for the Italian classics rider, who will be unable to compete in the big cobbled races, some of his better events.

The 'pay to race' scandal is part of the shadowy side of the sport, where riders, particularly youngsters, often are coerced to pay part of their UCI mandated minimum salary. Also included in their agreements are penalty clauses that leave riders unable in many cases to join bigger teams and pursue their careers freely. 

There is also the legal but murky world of 'personal' sponsors, companies who tend to travel with riders between teams. The understanding is that a large chunk of the sponsor's money goes to the rider's salary and the rest to the team and it is common to see teams favouring the signing of riders who bring money with them.

The managers at the heart of the investigation have consistently denied the 'pay to race' allegations but an in-depth look from the Corriere della Sera found several riders and witnesses that were prepared to speak on the record about the practice. Perhaps most notably, Elia Viviani (Team Sky) opted to testify along with several riders' agents and sponsors.

The case has been a long, ongoing one and many within the industry have said that the former practices of 'pay to race' are now longer in effect in the modern day peloton.

The news comes as a further blow for Gianni Savio and his Androni-Giaccattoli setup with the team snubbed by Giro d'Italia organisers RCS for a wildcard in the Grand Tour. The Giro is by far the biggest race for sponsors and teams in Italy, with funding often dependent on performing well in May. 

Speaking after the Giro snub, Savio was livid with the decision but determined to keep the squad afloat. Without his drive at the helm for the next three months, it may be hard for the team to maintain its current operation.

“This is the biggest injustice in my 33 years of professional cycling," said Savio. "I will continue. There are some rumours the team will disappear, but that will not happen. For sure, 100 per cent I continue.

"I don’t know if we continue as Androni Giocattoli but Sidermec, the second sponsor have confirmed and Lauretana, the water company, confirmed as well,” he said. “I think that Androni told me that he don’t continue because he was angry with this big injustice but I think I can maybe convince him.”

Time will tell if the 'pay to race' scandal has a wider fallout but it appears to have made a significant impact already.