Sunday, May 17, 2009

Stage 9, Part III: Controversy Reigns Supreme in Milan

MILAN, 17 May 2009 – From a party to a squabble, from a celebration to a controversy, from the show planned to the sorry figure cut as the world looked on. Regardless of which side you take, the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia was ruined by the protest of the riders more so than by the “flaws” of the circuit designed by the organisers.

THE EVENTS — The stage took off at 1:38. Martinez and Fothen fell on the first lap (average speed of 33.370 km/h) and many riders were forced to brake and put their feet to the ground. At this point, the pink jersey holder’s LPR team headed the peloton. Lance Armstrong moved towards the front to speak with the other team leaders and a discussion took place involving several riders. At the end of the fourth lap (average speed of 34.490 km/h, i.e. equivalent to a bicycle outing) the peloton halted. Di Luca asked the announcer for the microphone and on behalf of the 190 riders (who in reality are accustomed to competing on all types of circuit throughout the year) explained why there would be no race as such and why the crowd would be treated, rather, to what boiled down to a cycling parade. However, the "lack of safety" invoked by the group proved not to hold water between the sixth and tenth laps, as shown by the increase in average speed from 40 to 43 km/h, with the last two laps completed on full throttle at 48 and 52,800 km/h respectively.

A MESS — Armstrong refused to speak with journalists, preferring to communicate as usual via Twitter: "Tram tracks running in the same direction as the course, parked cars on the roads ... Unfortunately not the best day for the fans OR the riders". That’s to be sure. Other riders expressed their opinions, but there was no unanimity. For Pozzato, "It should have been discussed beforehand. It turned into a big mess". According to Basso, "Twenty riders fell after the first lap and the peloton feared injury more than it desired to fuel controversy". Pellizotti stated that "When you make a decision it’s only right that you follow it through”. Di Luca reconstructed the various phases of the today’s events: "Once the neutralisation of the breakaways had been obtained, the sprinters protested and asked for protection. The idea, therefore, was to arrive all together, without sprinting, and to let Rabobank win and dedicate his stage victory to Horrillo, who yesterday almost lost his life. Then, as always happens in cycling, someone had other ideas, confirming once and for all that in this sport there will never be unity. The Lampre team? Yes, they pushed in the last few laps, but they weren’t alone". Cavendish is the most direct: "Everyone sees it differently. In the Giro there are only 4-5 sprint stages and anyone who doesn’t want to make the dash doesn’t have to".

THE GIRO RIDICULED — "For two days we have been receiving text messages opposed to this circuit, which, on the contrary, passed all the inspections”, said Angelo Zomegnan, general race director. "The protest was premeditated. Also, no sooner were the riders in their saddles than some of them expressed their perplexity over some of the sections, fears that we met half way by neutralising the stage. The average speed in the first 4 laps was 33 km/h and in the last 3 it rose to 50 km/h, which means that the course can’t have been all that tough. Yesterday in Bergamo all celebrations were cancelled because 300 metres away a young man (Horrillo, ed.) was fighting for his life. The action taken by the riders is disrespectful towards the Giro and towards the people of Milan. The fact of the matter is that on this circuit you were supposed to launch continuous attacks. You were supposed to get your backside out of the saddle. But as some people age their legs get shorter and their mouths get bigger".

Photo: Lance Armstrong converses with race organizers today

After the Giro we'll get back to "regular programming": everything from A to Z about Italian cycling. Stories, including cycling trip stories, for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact

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