Washington DC start for Giro d'Italia?

Talks have been held, but logistical problems remain a huge barrier

by Simon_MacMichael   November 23, 2009  

Giro d'Italia logo.jpg

Rumours have been building on both sides of the Atlantic that RCS Sport, organisers of the Giro d’Italia, are considering starting the 2012 edition of the race in the American capital, Washington DC.

If true, it would represent the most ambitious foreign start for any of cycling’s three grand tours outside their home countries, and recently the Washington City Paper reported that a spokesperson for Mayor Adrian Fenty had confirmed that discussions had been held with race organisers.

Meanwhile, an online poll by sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport suggests that public opinion in Italy is split down the middle, with 44% saying that getting the Giro under way in the US was a fascinating prospect.

However, 40.7% of the more than 3,500 respondents believe that the Giro should run from start to finish on Italian soil. The remaining 15.3% say they agree with starting the race abroad, but the US is too far away and the time difference causes a problem.

Not by coincidence, La Gazzetta dello Sport and RCS Sport are both ultimately owned by the RCS Media group, and the poll could be interpreted as a way of gauging potential public reaction before deciding whether to press ahead with the plan.

RCS Media will doubtless be pleased that nearly one in two support the plan in principle, and starting the race on the other side of the Atlantic would generate huge interest from American cycling fans.

But the newspaper acknowledges that there are major logistical problems that would need to be overcome, not least the impact of transatlantic flights, with Milan being eight hours’ flying time from Washington.

And that's not to mention the huge financial costs that would be incurred in transporting the peloton and the circus that surrounds it from one continent to another and back.

While starting in other European countries is now a regular feature of Giro and the Tour de France, past proposals to get the latter under way outside Europe have hit those same barriers.

During the 1980s, hopes to host the Grand Départ in New York City were dashed, supposedly because there weren’t enough Concorde aircraft available to ferry the riders, team crews and race staff to and fro across the Atlantic. More recently, plans to celebrate Quebec’s 400th centenary in 2007 were also scuppered by logistical difficulties.

In the meantime, representatives of the Giro and the newspaper have been in the US in recent weeks, ostensibly to support two initiatives in New York to help celebrate this year’s centenary of the race.

On 2nd November, an exhibition devoted to the first hundred years of the Giro opened in the city, comprising photographs, works by contemporary artists, and an exhibition of a number of bicycles. And last week, veteran cycling journalist Also Grasso gave a talk about the race and its impact on Italian culture and the country’s recent history at New York University.