Why are the Italian riders faring so badly at the Giro d'Italia?

Home riders haven't gone this long without a stage win since 2010

Italian champion Giacomo Nizzolo is cheered on by fans at the Giro. The rider would later abandon the race after struggling with allergies.
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The Italians are having one of their worst Giro d'Italia rides in years, failing to win a stage in the first half of the race.

Italians have not gone this long into their home tour without a stage win since 2010 when Filippo Pozzato won the 12th stage, with  foreigners, or "stranieri", having won each of the first 10 stages.

"There are many international riders, so the competition is high to have your chance," Team Sky's Salvatore Puccio told Cycling Weekly.

"We lack teams where the tactics centre around an Italian or the Italians here are working for their foreign leaders. Daniele Bennati is working for Nairo Quintana, Diego Rosa and I are working for our leaders in Sky. Or Fabio Feline and Sonny Colbrelli are not here racing, maybe thinking of the Tour de France."

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Only 43 of the 195 riders on the start list were Italian, a record low in the race's 100 editions. The numbers have been going down since the Second World War - in 1936, all 89 starters were Italian.

Part of the reason behind the record low number is that this year, for the first time in modern cycling, Italy lacks a top-level team. It has no WorldTour teams and only four at the Professional Continental level.

Sirens sounded when the organiser overlooked two of those when handing out wildcard invitations. RCS Sport selected Bardiani-CSF and Wilier Triestina, the other two invitations went to Poland's CCC Sprandi Polkowice and Russia's Gazprom-Rusvelo.

"Maybe we don't have a big Italian sprinter here to win or we've had bad luck, like Giovanni Visconti and Valerio Conti in Peschici the other day," explained race director Stefano Allocchio.

"The table turns, sometimes the Italians win and sometimes they don't. Sooner or later they'll win. And remember in the Tour de France, I think the French had a similar problem and didn't have a win until July 14."

Watch: Giro d'Italia - stages 10-15 preview

Last year, the French had to wait until stage 19 to score in their home tour, which generally has a more international start list than the Giro d'Italia. One French journalist laughed that his French colleagues do not even worry about this problem anymore because it is accepted their home race is an international event with only 21 stages available each year.

"We have globalisation, it's not that we lack Italians," Bardiani sports director Stefano Zanatta said.

"We are not without good cyclists, they are just not all here in the Giro. Many are in the WorldTour teams on different programmes. Sonny Colbrelli, Fabio Felline, Elia Viviani, Moreno Moser, Matteo Trentin... We have these very good riders, 'stage hunters', but this happens with the globalisation of cycling.

"Tomorrow we are going to start winning! Bardiani has men who can go in the escapes and win."

"Maybe now we haven't produced many high-level riders and they need their time to develop from the U23 ranks," Mauro Vegni, cycling director with RCS Sport, added. "And maybe they are turning professional too quickly.

"This is the situation now and that's cycling. Sometimes it doesn't work out. But the Giro is still long and the Italians still have time to win."

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.