Giro d’Italia director hits out at Team Sky 'deception' as fresh Chris Froome row overshadows grande partenza
Chris Froome’s bid for a historic “Tiger slam” of Grand Tour titles will get under way beneath the walls of Old Jerusalem on Friday to the backdrop of yet another controversy, with Giro d’Italia director Mauro Vegni accusing Team Sky of deception over the way in which they handled their appearance fee negotiations for this race.
Vegni said on Thursday that, following an angry phone call, Team Sky’s principal Dave Brailsford flew to Italy to straighten things out with him after news of Froome’s adverse analytical finding for salbutamol leaked in December. The Italian also said it would be “a really good outcome” for the Giro if Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin won the race.
Team Sky are reportedly being paid €1.4 million to ride in this Giro, almost certainly the most of any team. Grand tour organisers habitually pay fees to teams, with the figure dependent on a number of factors, including the quality of rider they plan to bring to the race.
Having a four-time Tour de France winner and recently-crowned Vuelta a Espana champion as part of their prospective line-up would certainly have helped Sky’s negotiations.
Vegni, though, was upset that Brailsford did not inform him of Froome’s test result – a result which jeopardised Froome’s participation – before they announced his Giro participation in November, despite having known since late September.
Team Sky pointed out that the disciplinary process was meant to be confidential, although Vegni clearly does not see it that way. “Definitely yes,” Vegni replied when asked whether he felt deceived by Sky. “The [negotiations] with Team Sky took place before the Giro presentation so I would have expected, within a correct relationship, to be informed. So somehow I didn’t really like this.”
Team Sky responded, saying: "The UCI process regarding Chris would normally have remained confidential. The team wanted to fully respect this but since it became public we have stayed in regular touch with the Giro organisers about it. We received and agreed the final race contract within the last three weeks – obviously some time after the issue had became public.
"In all our conversations with the organisers they have been supportive of Chris’ participation in the race. We love the Giro. We are honoured to be competing at it and we can’t wait for it to start."
If Froome cannot explain why he had twice the permitted amount of salbutamol in his urine following a stage of the Vuelta last September, he could be suspended, although there is doubt over whether that suspension would be backdated.
Vegni said on Thursday that following a conversation with UCI president David Lappartient in March, he was “confident” that the result of this Giro would stand even if Froome won but was later banned. But the UCI later put out a statement saying its president was in no position to make such guarantees.
Vegni was also asked who he wanted to win the race. “As organiser I don’t support any rider specifically,” he said. “But let me add Tom [Dumoulin, the 2017 champion and second favourite] is a nice character, so to speak. He’s young, he’s handsome. He’s good for cycling as a whole.”
The race begins on Friday with a 9.7km time trial through the streets of Jerusalem.