If you are looking for a symbol of paradoxical situation currently taking place in Italian cycling, coming from an unprecedented successful season, and at the same time experiencing unprecedented troubles, there you have it: Luca Scinto, a man able to go from the top of world to the bottom line of unemployment in a few weeks.
On October 13, the 34-year-old tuscan was all smiles, just like the rest of the "Squadra Azzurrain Zolder, after playing a fundamental part in Mario Cipollini's triumphal ride. Italian fans could hear him screaming out loud his happiness in front of the microphones. But at the beginning of December, a not so smiling Scinto was using his voice to tell "Gazzetta dello Sport" newspaper the reasons why him, as much as several other Italians (and seems that even a few foreigners are in a similar situation), can't find a jersey to wear, after the demise of his former trade team Mapei.
Something you would hardly believe, especially when it happens to a rider who showed off his talent, mainly as an excellent, loyal domestique, one of the most unselfish riders in the Italian peloton, all through his career, from 1994 to the Zolder World Championships. But it's true, damn true. Reasons and details are outspokenly (namely in the pure Tuscan way) told by Scinto himself. With some cutting remarks addressed to teams, riders and their way of acting.
First of all when talking about the tactics currently used by some team managers in their bid to recruit riders: "Now that many are in search for a new team, a few squads are using such tactics: they call you and say "man, do you want to ride for us ? Well, we are giving you this sum. If it's good to you, OK. If it's not ... bye bye". I may understand them somehow, as they must take care of their profits too, but some young riders wishing to keep racing may even accept those conditions".
"But as for me, I still hope to sign with Mario Cipollini's team. After the Worlds he promised that he was going to take me to his squad, and Mario is used to keep his promises. Of course I'd like to get a proper contract, taking into consideration both my form and age. Every day I'm here waiting for the phone to ring ... But I can't wait too long, as I have other proposals I could accept: one as directeur sportif of a U23 team, the Prato-based Finauto, another outside the cycling world, as I could keep working for a bank next spring. You know, I have got a family, two daughters, and must take care of my future. I have got some money too, but when you don't have a job, money ends soon".
Scinto tells more details on an offer he got very recently "Ten days ago (Panaria's manager) Bruno Reverberi called and offered me a contract, but with the same wage I was used to get as a neo-professional. I understand his point of view, you know, the low budget, the lack of sponsors and the rest, and may even negotiate a pay cut, but at the age of 34, and with a family to feed, to end the year with the same sum I used to gain when I started racing as a pro would not be such a good thing to me"
So what ? "So I'm still waiting for Cipo's situation to evolve, and his team to find this damn sponsor soon: it's unbelievable that a World Champion can't find a sponsor for his team".
Mario Cipollini's situation may seem a little less grotesque, but a little less if you look at it as part of the current state of Italian (and, more generally speaking, international) cycling.
And Scinto sounds like he has clear ideas about the reasons of such a situation "We should look at the roots of the problem: the first mistake was turning an excessive number of riders professional in recent years, each time we had 60, 70, 80, 90 neo-professionals. Some of them even without getting good results as amateurs. When I was an amateur, I used to get some victories every year, and at the time only 6 or 7 of us turned prefessional".
And moe on the issue "Now I see colleagues not even able to stay on their bikes. And the presence of some 70-75 riders without a team is no surprise. Honestly I think more or less just about fifteen deserve to keep racing. The rest should find a new job. The problem is that some of them, especially when they don't get enough good results, accept to ride for free, or may even bring a new sponsor to the team in order to find a spot in its ranks. So they steal the place to other riders, like me. That's the problem".
"That's the first problem at least. Of course there are other factors too: the lack of sponsors, the current economic situation, with people losing jobs in many fields, I can see it in my area too. And the doping scandals made further damage. Some sponsors avoid entering the cycling world as they fear that their image could be tarnished by them. But I don't give up, I'm still waiting for that phone call to come ...".
LUCA SCINTO - BRIEF BIO/PALMARES
Born in Galleno (Italy) on January 28, 1968.
Professional Rider since 1994
CAREER: TEAMS & VICTORIES
2002 (MAPEI-QUICK STEP) - No wins
2001. (MAPEI-QUICK STEP) - No wins
2000. (MAPEI-QUICK STEP) - 1 Win: Stage Uniqa Classic
1999. (MAPEI-QUICK STEP) - 1 Win: Giro di Toscana
1998. (ASICS-CGA) - No wins
1997. (M.G-TECHNOGYM) - 1 Win: Tour of Malaysia
1996. (M.G.-TECHNOGYM) - No wins
1995. (M.G.-TECHNOGYM) - 2 wins: G.P. Camaiore / Tour de Berne
1994. (M.G.MAGLIFICIO) - No wins