Controversial Italian rider Riccardo Riccò has joined a new team and it’s already roaring success. Why? Well here are some reasons:
- I like to follow pro cycling but I’ve never heard of the Meridiana-Kamen team. It’s a Croatian outfit with a mix of local riders backed up with Italians and Colombians. Now you know.
- Riccò’s arrival means even this blog is now showcasing their red and white kit and more importantly for the team, they’re revelling in the publicity and notoriety across the media in Italy, Croatia and beyond.
- Given no team – except Amore e Vita, and under strict conditions – wanted to handle the self-styled reptile of the peloton, Meridiana-Kamen have surely got Riccò for a “bargain” rate.
- Riccò himself gets his ticket to ride when no team would have him. After being extremely ill, he’s back on the bike (and presumably got his fridge serviced). He talked about quitting the sport, perhaps to work as a barman, but seems unable to leave the sport. He’s got to be happy having the chance to race again.
So everyone’s happy, right? Well obviously many are not. For me, I think this is a cheap publicity stunt for all concerned. I fear Riccò is simply being exploited for the media coverage and grim fascination he generates, all to publicise what ever it is Meridiana and Kamen are trying to sell. But just as you’d not want to buy a used car from Riccò, you have to ask whether Meridiana is name that inspires trust.
Above all, I think Riccò probably needs some form of rehabiliation, it could be mild or perhaps even a serious clinical version. When it comes to training and racing I’m not sure Meridiana and Kamen are the structure to educate him on a healthy lifestyle and progressive training methods. Without dipping too far into cod-psychology it seems he’s after the a chance to ride for reasons that go beyond paying the bills. At a time when he might need firm psychological support I just fear the team are using his name for a stunt.
Exploitation isn’t new to the sport, you only have to see how quick some where to put Marco Pantani back on his bike despite illness and addiction. But this is probably the most cynical example of the season. In terms of publicity, it’s working already but longer term, this doesn’t look healthy for anyone, whether the team, its riders, the companies involved and even Croatian cycling and the sport as a whole.
Note that an investigation is still going on into the sudden illness suffered by Riccò and the apparent tales of a botched blood transfusion.