Riccardo Riccò’s succesful new start

Ricco comeback

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.


24 thoughts on “Riccardo Riccò’s succesful new start”

  1. First of all, let’s just say that if he is banned, then he’s looking at 4 years to a lifetime ban – and all this conjecture becomes moot pretty much.

    if he’s not, wouldn’t it be better to see a respected DS step up to the plate to take the responsibility? This guy has obviously got the “numbers”, just clearly not the brains! Isn’t this what the late Aldo Sassi was trying to do? Is there really no other coach/DS out there that see’s this as a pet project? Maybe thats the sadder indictment….

  2. @beev – his “numbers” are rumoured to have been artificially improved even in junior days. Apparently he boasted about it. As for it being a “pet” project he has already tried to use Aldo Sassi to give himself some credability and I’m not sure others will now take the chance.

    Somehow with Ricco’ Mike Tyson comes to mind.

    Let’s see how it all pans out when he’s discovered in a hotel room with the walls daubed with his ramblings.

  3. Ricco is beyond therapeutic help. From day one he has been a loudmouthed and egocentric lunatic, a very irresponsible father and boyfriend and even as a “rider” bears all the signs of a pathetic junkie.

    It was unbelievable Vacansoleil put up with that crook. And it is even worse that some Croation discountteam is doing it (after fridgegate)

  4. I was not only surprised that Ricco has found a team [notwithstanding Fannini’s team, with its reputation for rehab opportunities], but aghast that his new team is Meridiana-Kamen.
    My wife and I happen to have a holiday house near Pazin, where the Croatian side of the Meridiana-Kamen team originated out of the local Kamen-Pazin club. We know former and current riders and staff, some quite well, so we are trying very hard to keep an open mind – at least until we have a chance to chat. It will be interesting to learn what they think about him and how they react to having him as a teammate for the upcoming Tour of Serbia.
    We did not make any specific plans to watch this year’s ToS, but I think now this topic is simply too interesting to resist…although admittedly in the negative sense.

  5. I was equally surprised to see Ricco’s name associated with a team but now I see the reason. I thought he was ineligible to race. In a typical attempt to justify his actions, he said that kidney failure can happen to anyone, well obviously when you’re transfusing age-old frozen blood, you Einstein! Nothing good can come out of that person and it’s a shame that some team is using him for cheap publicity.

  6. I like this blog, a lot, issues are raised and we can all give our 2 cents worth. However in this case I find the discussion a little one sided. Ricco is a prick (excuse my language) and yes it’s hard to argue otherwise but let’s not get carried away because we really hate this guy. Without citing other riders and circumstances he is not the first doper to return via a smaller continental team (think ‘Cera’ Club). Coming down hard on Ricco any more than one of the others seems to me an unbalanced approach to dealing with an ugly reality that does not get the proper attention. I remember seeing a TT in Tireno Adriatico a few years ago when Basso made his return to the sport. The stage started in the main piazza in Loreto, a famous hilltop pilgrim town where the Madonna is supposed to have appeared. The start ramp was setup in front of the steps of the Basilica where Basso had just climbed the ramp and sat ‘serenely’ on his bike ready and focused to blast out of town. There was an enormous cheer from the crowd when the PA announced his name and as he rolled down the ramp the piazza erupted in a typical tifosi frenzy. There I was surrounded by souvenir shops selling miniature St Anthonys and Madonna statutes and it struck me that we, the fans are as much to blame as anyone else. It was Basso’s year back and no doubt with all the positive support from we the fans he was feeling pretty good about himself. It Italy perceptions are different, you will hardly ever find a person cycling fan or not who believe cycling champions are clean, ever were or in fact (sadly) ever will be. In recent years riders sitting out a ban here would stay race fit by riding Gran Fondos, usually introduced at the event as a guest of honor. Yesterday we had our local ‘big’ Grand Fondo, 7 Muri and guess who showed up? Was there a boo? Was he pelted with Power Bars and bananas? Eh no, in fact he was paraded to the front and treated like, well a ‘grande campione’. It made local headlines and everyone got to brag about racing with the Cobra. The way I see it Ricco is more the poster boy for an ugly truth, a sad fact about our sport. What makes him different from Sella, Schumacher or Basso is that his is a punk ass prick (again pardon the lingua) but a drug is a drug and a doper is a doper no matter what the team, nationality or person involved. You have many different personalities in the sport but this should not get in the way of fighting the dope war. Ricco more than likely learned to dope in a ‘professional’ way like the majority of pros, with the U23 and perhaps even sooner (common wisdom in a cycling mad country). Remember that to turn pro you have to ‘win’ races first to earn a contract and that’s not easy. After that you may end up a gregarrio run into the ground or a champion in the spotlight with heavy duty pressure but now you have a job and a career. Either way the chips are down at that point things are already passed a certain point and integrity is seriously compromised. Fighting doping in the professional ranks is like closing the stable door when the horse is already gone. Ricco’s arrogance is Ricco’s personality but my guess is he does not give a shit (there I go again) because he represents and knows an ugly truth about cycling that so far has not managed to attract enough attention. There are many people both in and out of professional sport that believe doping is ok and even justifiable, no doubt he is one. The problem is, we the fans, press, blogs etc who want a drug free sport never seem to debate this candidly and without judgement. Why? If it’s the case that a certain percentage or people involved in the sport have not drawn a line with what they believe, yet, then we need to discuss this now, openly and without prejudice. Educated the youth, highlight the dilemma and fight doping where it really begins, before the pro ranks I was always struck by a LA commercial, the Demigod himself, where he says ‘this is my body, I can do whatever I want to it’….. Amen.

  7. Beating on Ricco is easy; he’s relatively small fry. Not a Spanish, Luxembourger or Texas superstar with a small army of lawyers and loads of corporate money to pay them.
    I’d argue that Ricco unwittingly plays the “bad guy” in the ongoing, UCI sponsored, theatrical farce styled “most pros are clean” which are so inexplicably keen to watch and believe in. Ricco’s just a distraction from the real issues: he’s a fall guy not much else.
    I really wish writers out there would be more incisive with the real criminals in the sport. How about the bigger fish? How about the Schleck brothers and Puerto? (I.e., the pathetic excuse for the money they sent to Fuentes? Who called on them during an interview?) How about Kloden who paid not to be sued in re. Puerto? How about asking other pro cyclists (who are currently riding in the peloton) on the record how they feel about Armstrong? Put the pressure on why don’t we? I bet one is bound to say something interesting — if not at least make them take a stand! If they want to cover up, follow the code of silence, let’s know about it.

  8. Rider Council: fair point but I’m not really trying to be hard on him, indeed I’ve said he needs help, not a ride. My point, sorry if I expressed it badly, is that a tiny team is making a name for itself simply by signing a rider under investigation. It’s not doing anyone any good, except for a quick burst of publicity and even then the companies involved look stupid. They’ve probably got him on the cheap and he’s certainly not getting any proper support.

  9. I agree. We’re all part of the problem. As fans, we don’t truly care about what happens to Ricco as long as he goes away. Out of sight. Out of mind. But the problem still remains. He will still require help in some fashion. Mental and physical that is. “Not a ride” as previously mentioned.

    No team should be able to sign a rider until he/she is cleared of a doping infraction. This seems to be a story heard too often. Does anyone know if the UCI and CPA are working (with lawmakers possibly) to stop this scenario from happening?

  10. Well done for not sinking into cod-psychology. I had a bit of a ‘to-do’ with journalist Matt Rendell’s remote assessment and diagnosis of Ricco’s psychological state. I was not impressed.

  11. I would not speculate on his mental health, he seems so far fine to me actually. A narcissistic immature punk with cheesy taste in clothes, eyewear and more than likely furniture but a talented son of a bitch at the same time. I think , that is more than anything, keeping the door open for him. He was the only rider to put real pressure on Contador the last time he won the Giro and love him or hate him he is an attacker and can win big races. I would not bet against a host of teams courting him recently not just for the negative press. Sub consciously Basso has done more damage to the sport in my opinion than a nut like Riccò can ever do. Because of the fact that he is a nut and not a smooth family man like wonderful Ivan. Yes, he is a major screw up (with tenacity) and an easy target, maybe even suffering deep inside, but some people are just better organising their fridge. So where is the truth? That’s what I want! Some people have said you can’t win clean, some say you can…….so lets talk about that little difference of opinion for once till the cows come home. I personally do not believe a word coming out of anyone in professional cycling these days. Maybe ex-professionals but not those currently in the mix, no way! And I believe I have good reason and I’m not afraid to deal with what may be the truth behind the lies. I already dealt with it a long time ago. I’m serene, calm and with good sensations.

  12. Does anyone know the status of the investigation into Ricco’s alleged botched transfusion? The hospital physician went on record to state that Ricco admitted to transfusing 25 day old blood from his fridge. What’s been happening legally since then? The wheels of justice seem to turn more slowly than the riders up the Angliru.

  13. Somehow I really think most/a lot of riders are clean now. With clean I mean: not using products that are harmful for the body and are forbidden on the lists.
    What more can we ask? Is it fair that the guy with the best genetic profile wins, or should less fortunate guys be able to try to get even by more artificially methods?
    I think this question is not easily answwered.
    About Ricco: I fear this guy, because I think he isn’t able to respect any boundaries. Without proper help he can become very destructive, either to himself or to others and that makes me real sad.

  14. hmmm………i sure like pro ycling, and rider council, you nailed it with that statement: ” i’m serene, calm, and with good sensations,” i understand that as, i’m w/o guilt, w/o anxiety, and i feel good about my choices/training/athletic form. ……i’ve seen that response/reply made by riders so many times now, it’s sorta cliche. personally, i hope these people are on something beside bicarbonate of soda and electrolites to help them through the season.

  15. Do you all seriously believe most pro riders are clean today? How delusional can you get? Seriously.
    Go back to the great Jacques Anquetil and what he said about doping decades ago. Google is your friend. Add to that the fact that riders go on average 10km faster during the TdF (and no, it’s not about “carbon technology”).
    Pro riders dope. The great majority (this is a consensus off the record if you talk to ex-pros, btw). They dope to varying degrees perhaps, with varying degrees of skill and “medical” and financial support and with different drugs, certainly. Some have teams of docs and loads of money to get undetectable compounds that are not even illegal yet. Others can afford a working fridge. (Guess who gets caught?).
    Folks saying they are “sure” that most pro riders are not doping today might as well wave a flag with “I am a naive idiot” written on it. Or maybe it reads “I know absolutely nothing about cycling.” Probably both. Wake up folks, if not now, what precisely is it going to take?

  16. @Oliver

    OK. I’ll find another prey instead of the notorious narc-addict Ricco.

    While it may be wishful thinking to contfront the peloton with i.e. Lance Armstrongs pending case I am not sure it will lead to any major breakthrough regarding the use of doping during the USP reign.

    I wanna bet a sizeable amount that most riders will be unwilling to condemn LA based on what characters like Hamilton and Landis has already revealed. and what does that prove? That they’re all part of the omerta? I think that’s a slight exaggerated conclusion.

    Recently Gerard Vroomen criticized the press coverage of Basso and Schlecks and their involvement in Operacion Puerto.

    As a journalist it can be very hard to find riders, team director and even sponsors who are willing to speak up when the shit hits the fans. But where were Vroomen in 2006 with all his disgust over Basso and Schleck?

    I tell yout that: Vroomen was nowhere to be found. Maybe because he was trying to protect his brand and sponsorship for whatever it was worth.

    Gerard Vroomen is as much a part of the problem as the people he five (5) years later is pointing his fingers at. And that says a whole lot abolut the state of cycling and the interests involved.

  17. I agree with @ElBeeJay on Vroomen even though it is going off the topic. In fact I was blow away by the comments and reactions of many journalists and bloggers, even the ones having a good time now on twitter poking fun at LA. A PR move they are so easily duped by makes me very nervous for the near future. One would have thought they would know better by now? Cervelo has made so much money from it’s involvement in pro cycling they could eventually sponsor a Pro Continental team! Now, if CSC was sponsored by Schwinn or Raleigh there would be no Vroomen! . Its all back to Kimmage again, we need more like him but finding someone with that kind of courage these days is very rare. Maybe bloggers and twitterati are so focused with their media tools they haven’t realised that industry plays the same game and well.

  18. It’s not “cyclists dope” but more “why can’t cycling get rid of doping?” One can have a “level playing field” in two ways, everyone’s doped or NOBODY’s doped. Why not strive for the latter? Just because it’s difficult (some would say impossible) doesn’t make it not worth striving for to me. If the risks were to outweigh the advantages far fewer would cheat, whether it’s doping or forcing your team car ahead of the race jury while claiming you’ll service all the riders, not just those on your team. Criminal investigations into sports doping as a crime, serious sanctions against doctors (loss of medical license?) team managers and other staff as well as the rider would increase the risks perhaps enough to outweigh the advantage? Of course, having an accountable, transparent governing body would help too. It’s a HUGE job but I don’t think it’s impossible…though I do think it’s very unlikely to happen anytime soon.

  19. Rider Council: I’m all good with long posts, and anyone with half a brain should be too. Next time, though, try breaking it up into paragraphs so that it doesn’t come out looking like a Joycean stream of consciousness.

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