Riccardo Ricco’s move to Vacansoleil is not without its controversy. The Dutch team wants to step up a level to enter the ProTour, it also wants to take part in the big races like the Tour de France. Is signing Ricco a good way to go about this?
Ricco has proven he can win and he’s served his ban. He admitted taking CERA and even helped the investigators, in return for a reduction in the duration of the ban. If cycling needs rules and regulations to be respected, then ironically this implies that a banned cheat is allowed back when the rules say so.
If the Italian was winning with CERA in his veins, then I fear a clean Ricco will prove a poor recruitment because without such assistance, he probably won’t win as much. There’s little guarantee the “Cobra” has changed his ways. And if Vacansoleil hired him, they’d do well to look at Flaminia who were overlooked for the Giro partly because they’d associated themselves with such a poisonous character.
Daydreaming vs. reality
My wish is for a sport with some ethics, where someone like Ricco is overlooked by teams who prefer to nurture young talent and take the safer option of a demonstrably clean rider, with a bio passport to match. But the reality is that cycling remains a relentlessly commercial and cut-throat sport where few sponsors and managers have the time or inclination to be patient with riders, where results and TV coverage is all that matters, especially if scandal can be swept under the carpet.
Time will tell
Whilst we all have a view, perhaps we can’t say for sure if signing Ricco is the right move for Vacansoleil until sometime next year? With time, the UCI will build up a better profile of his blood parameters and his new employers will be able to see how he conducts himself on and off the bike. Above all we’ll see if the team can sign other riders, the addition of Stijn Devolder is promising but they probably need more than Devolder and Ricco to make them a “must have” squad for race organisers.