Michele Acquarone Looks Forward

Fotoreporter Sirotti

Former Giro d'Italia Director is talking -- not so much about what happened, but what comes next.

This is a bit of a patchwork post, but if you haven't gotten a "let's dispense with the formalities" vibe previously, it's like I don't even know you anymore. Anyway, former Giro d'Italia boss Michele Acquarone is refusing to be put on an island and is reaching out around the cycling media landscape, including to yours truly. However, it's not to litigate his case with RCS over his dismissal, but to share his vision of the future.

Backing up, Acquarone was fired last month by RCS in association with an alleged incident in which 13 million have gone missing from RCS's accounts. The key word is "in association with," because RCS bundled the two together, but seemed to state clearly that they did not accuse Acquarone of involvement... which leaves "lack of oversight" as the remaining justification. Except RCS has said nothing more, not to the media nor to Acquarone himself. And "in association with" is the sticking point for Acquarone, who believes that RCS are tarring him with embezzlement by being vague and letting people's imaginations run with "sacked" and "missing money". This is sure to go to court, though not before a criminal investigation (presumably of the unnamed people who actually took the money) is completed. Oh, and several top people in the RCS Media Group have also resigned or changed jobs, including the CEO, the chairman, the administrative director and the media relations director.

Now, don't hear what I didn't say: for all I know RCS may have a good reason for firing Acquarone. I think most of us admire his work with the Giro d'Italia, which was very exciting in the two editions he directed (2012-13), and were looking forward to the next. The race seemed to be getting healthier under Acquarone. But in the end, it's a dispute between an employee and employer, about a situation we know next to nothing about. Still, it's very hard not to take Acquarone's side, and RCS's silence does as much to hurt their credibility as Acquarone's openness does to help his. And just as we shouldn't assume Acquarone is blameless, so too should we refrain from assuming that RCS hasn't made up the entire "missing money" story as an excuse to clean house. Stay tuned.

Anyway, Acquarone would prefer to talk about his beloved sport and how to make things better. He spoke with the Outer Line recently, passing on his big-picture ideas for growing the sport, establishing a franchise system (he and Jonathan Vaughters are working from a similar script), and shares his dislike of the UCI points system. Acquarone also recommends the Outer Line's Roadmap to Repair Pro Cycling, FYI.Where the interview gets news-y is his discussion of the cycling calendar. Read the whole thing, but here's the teaser: four grand tours, two weeks each, one in France, Italy, the US and Australia. Oh, and every race should have a women's event. Acquarone cites the Williams sisters and their impact on tennis as an example of cycling's big missed opportunity. As food for thought goes, this is a feast.

Back to the man himself... if he is ever exonerated from this RCS mess, where does he go? What's a lateral move from Giro boss? RCS own the biggest races in Italy, so that's probably out. The only promotion from Giro boss would be Tour boss, but an Italian citizen has a better chance of being elected president of the United States than head of France's most precious sporting event. The Vuelta? Similarly bad optics, particularly given his grand tour ideas, and anyway Javier Guillen has that job nailed down for the foreseeable future. Somewhere, though, a smaller race will need a guy with experience, contacts, and new ideas. Also, new UCI president Brian Cookson might not want to waiver in his commitment to a new cycling. Because if innovation, big-picture direction and business acumen are the tools of the trade at the UCI, Cookson might not be the only man for that job.

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