The Orica-GreenEDGE team, whose Australian rider Michael Matthews leads the three-week Giro d'Italia, said it was a "sad day" if the reported car bomb discovered in Dublin, where the third stage finished on Sunday, had been targeted for the event.
Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director Matt White told Fairfax Media on Monday night that the team learned of the bomb discovery just before they left the Irish capital on the morning after Sunday's third stage that had been won by German Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).
White said the team's riders and staff were shocked to learn of reports that a 22-kilogram bomb had been found on Saturday night by gardai in a vehicle in the car park of the Finnstown Country House hotel in Lucan, Co Dublin where a wedding reception was being held.
“If it was intended for the Giro, it’s a very sad when any group uses sport to make their political message – or whatever their message is – across," White told Fairfax Media on Monday night [AEST] from Bari in southern Italy after transferring there from Dublin.
“Sport does unite a lot of people. We are not here on any religious cause, or we are not here … it’s a very, very sad day if that was the intended use for the bomb."
However, White said that he would not speak to his riders about the incident in depth before the 21 stage Giro resumed on Tuesday for the 121km, fourth stage from Giovinazzo to Bari.
“No … the boys all got a bit of a shock when they read about it on their iPhones this morning on the plane. But there is no need to make a big fuss about it," White said.
“It’s disturbing, but we didn’t found out about it until we left this Ireland morning [on Monday]. We won’t dwell on the fact, that’s for sure."
As White spoke, all teams in the Giro were just assembling at their hotels in the Bari region after a three-hour flight to Italy and eating lunch before their afternoon training rides in order to be ready for the Giro's continuation on Tuesday on far warmer conditions.
Asked if the Giro organisers had contacted him or the Orica-GreenEDGE management, White said as of 10.45pm on Monday (AEST), they had not: “No … I just spoke to Shayne [Bannan, the team general manager] 30 minutes ago. No one has been in contact."
White also said that he would not seek assurances from the Giro organisers that tougher security measures would be in place.
“No … because it’s one of those things that [in cycling] are uncontrollable," White said.
"We are not going into a football stadium, or we are not asking for security in one place.
"We need to be realistic. We are using the roads over three weeks.
“At the end of the day, if people want to do something that drastic, there is not much that people can do to stop them really.
“There are millions of people along the sides of the road watching the Giro or Tour. It’s impossible to control that sort of terrain."
Nevertheless, White lauded the visit by the Giro to Ireland and local organisers who had spent years preparing the Giro start.
“Northern Ireland hasn’t got a strong cycling history, but what I was really surprised with was how the people got behind it," he said.
“There were some very small towns with some pretty average weather, and there were Tour de France sort of crowds."
While White was still shocked that a bomb had been found, he said the pragmatic position by him and the team management was due to road cycling - especially in grand tours like the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana - often being used as platforms for protest.
“It’s an easy event to stop because people use the roads," White said. "It’s an easy event to cause a disturbance and get some media attention, but this is going to another level altogether if that was the intended use of the bomb."
Although, unlike controlled environments like stadiums, road cycling routes are impossible to guarantee full security on, White said.
“Sporting events are nearly uncontrollable. You can’t keep security. Look at the Tour de France or even the Tour of Italy [Giro], realistically you can’t control 3500km of road," White said.
Giro d'Italia race director Mauro Vegni said that he didn’t know about the bomb report until he was asked about it by the media on Monday. However, he said that he felt the incident was not related to the race.
“This happened Saturday afternoon in Dublin when we were in Belfast,” Vegni told VeloNews on Monday.
“It was on a point in Dublin where the race wasn't passing the next day. I don't see a connection. From that point of view, giving the traction to this news, I'm upset that this news could ruin the image of the beautiful days we had."
"I don't think that it had anything to do with the Giro. It's news, like others, but isn't related.
“We always had the situation under control when we were there, but already [from] six months out.
“We were watching every bit of news – unionist or republican flags, etc – we controlled it, monitored it."
Vegni also defended the security measures that are put in place at the Giro.
"Even in Italy, we have security that controls the race," Vegni said.
Asked if there was added security for the Irish stages, Vegni said: “I went there 20 days ago. They invited me to see their control centre in Belfast and Dublin. “It's similar to what we have in Italy. They didn't have anything linked to the Giro.”
The Dublin bomb, according to Monday's Irish Independent, had been made from fertiliser. The paper said it was "armed and ready for use with a timer attached", and while the intended target "remained unclear", it said the bomb was found before Sunday's stage finish.
There are reports a man has been detained in connection with the bomb under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939. He can be detained for up to 72 hours.
The story Australian cycling team shocked after hearing Dublin car bomb could have targeted Giro d'Italia first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.