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Giro D'Italia Cycling News for May 20, 2007

Edited by Sue George

Petacchi calls for more stadium finishes

By Jean-François Quénet in Scarperia

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Alessandro Petacchi won his 21st Giro stage Saturday by outsprinting Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Paolo Bettini (Quickstep - Innergetic) in a mass field sprint on the Mugello race track in Tuscany at the end of Stage 7. Neither of his competitors had the legs to come around the surging Milram rider who led a bunch of 148 racers toward a congested finish.

"I had good sensations and I was able to make a great sprint," said Petacchi after logging his second win in this year's Giro. "I know that that there were other sprinters who were more tired than me [after the climb]. The team really put its faith in me."

Petacchi was helped by his teammates, who did a majority of the work today; he had six men in the front with three kilometres to go until the nervous finale.

"I am getting better day by day," Petacchi said. "I think all the bad moments have passed. I am now restarting and doing the sprints how I should be doing them. I think Hushovd did very well today, he showed a lot of force. I think McEwen [finished 14th - ed.] suffered a little on the climb but tomorrow will be another day and I will watch for him."

Photo ©: Sirotti
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It was a special day for the Tour of Italy, one which paid tribute to the late Gastone Nencini who had won the Giro 50 years ago - and the 1960 Tour de France as well. Tuscany had obviously prepared the stage finish on the car racing circuit of Mugello for a long time. It was a big success in the grandstands where the crowd could see the athletes going much slower than usual motor sports competitors.

"It was a sprint requiring great power," the stage winner underlined. "As the road was slightly uphill, I don't think we were going very fast, probably no more than 65km/h. As for myself, I felt I was able to push hard on the pedals, that's how I built my victory and I'm very happy to have won after 250 kilometres of racing. It means I'm back for good after all the problems following my crash one year ago."

Petacchi was enchanted by the atmosphere of the circuit. "I remember I finished the Vuelta once in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in front of 20,000 people at least. Cycling must go where there is the capacity to welcome the huge crowds. I believe this finish was extremely spectacular."

Pink jersey Marco Pinotti added that "it was safer as well". In fact, no crash occurred and the risk was lower than in town centres. Stage 8 finishes on the legendary circuit of Maranello, the home of Ferrari, so it will be another occasion to enjoy a venue built for racing.

Pink Pinotti shines in cycling's new era

Giro's leader unimpressed by Basso's actions

By Gregor Brown

Basso and Simoni head towards Aprica
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Marco Pinotti, who goes into Stage 8 Sunday wearing the leader's jersey, fulfilled a dream of every Italian when he took the Maglia Rosa on the Giro's sixth stage to the Umbrian town of Spoleto. The rider from Bergamo, nick-named Pino, stuck with Columbian Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) when he attacked on the Forca di Cerro.

The duo respected cycling's unwritten rules; Laverde helped build a bigger time buffer for Pinotti's leader's jersey and was repaid with the stage win. It was respect that was passed over on Pinotti's former teammate Gilberto Simoni in last year's stage to Aprica.

"I was more correct with Laverde than he [Ivan Basso] was with Simoni," said Pinotti after the stage to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

That day in 2006 Basso was riding for time gains on the overall and Simoni agreed to work with him by slowing down on the descent of the Mortirolo so the two could ride together to the finale. Instead of letting Simoni have the stage Basso allegedly asked for money and went on to take the stage when his escape companion refused the offer.

"There exists these unwritten rules in cycling that I wanted to respect," continued Pinotti. "One rule says that, in certain cases, you divide the stage and the jersey. This was one of those cases; the stage to Laverde and the maglia to me. It was not like what happened in the Giro, at Aprica, when in the same situation the unwritten rule was not respected; Basso the stage and maglia, Simoni nothing."

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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It is not only unwritten rules that are respected. Pinotti joined Team T-Mobile partly because of its anti-doping stance. "Our code of conduct is very broad," said General Manager Bob Stapleton in an interview with Cyclingnews, in April. "So any form of intent to cheat or misrepresentation is basis for termination, fines or suspension. And we do blood volume testing, so if there is some chance you are involved in blood manipulation there is the chance we are going to catch you directly."

Pinotti is known as a clean rider in the peloton and now, under heightened awareness due to Operación Puerto, we are seeing different riders rise to the top of the sport.

"I went with T-Mobile because the German team has set out to be clean and transparent," the 31 year-old noted. This pane e acqua approach has also left the Serhiy Honchar, wearer of the Maglia Rosa in 2006, at home. "To exclude Honchar because his blood values were abnormal is a demonstration that the line is followed."

He thinks that his compatriot's signed agreement with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) was less of a confession and more of an insult to cycling's effort to clean up the sport. "The Basso event is sad. He continues to talk and not talk, hint and hide, it is an offence to everyone's intelligence, including us racers. He disappointed me."

Bob Stapleton: "Pinotti fits with our philosophy very well"

By Jean-François Quénet in Scarperia

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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The current maglia rosa Marco Pinotti is known for being an engineer before taking up cycling professionally, but he also acts as a journalist. For the past two years, he's been a regular columnist for L'Eco di Bergamo, the local paper from his region from which he got a phone call on Friday evening: "When is your piece coming? We'll put it on the front page!"

Pinotti managed to write it, although "a bit late" as he apologized. "It was about myself and my emotions, but today I'll write about my teammates cause they're great." One of the people he wants to include in his comments is Bob Stapleton, T-Mobile's general manager who arrived at the Tour of Italy "just in time for watching the last 40 kilometres of stage 6." But it was definitely worth him coming from the US for to watch one of his favourite riders in pink.

"Pinotti was introduced to me by our common friend Max Testa (Motorola's former Italian doctor and coach, ed.)," Stapleton explained. "He told me this guy would fit very well with our philosophy because he believes in our anti-doping program. "We search the same goals. He's exactly the kind of rider we'd like to see in the future. He shares our views on mental training and sport psychology. He's very open to new ideas. I'm convinced that there are lots of opportunities in cycling for improvement without drugs."

Team T-Mobile.
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Having the lead in the Tour of Italy is obviously something that makes the new T-Mobile believe in what they're doing. "We'll try to hold the jersey as long as we can," Stapleton added. "I wish we had a stronger team for helping Marco, but Michael Barry was sick before the start, Adam Hansen broke his hand, etc. ... The six riders left are committed to keep the jersey."

The team ended up eating in a self-service cafeteria after Pinotti took the lead because there was no restaurant in their hotel. "We ate really well and it was great fun," Pinotti said. At the start in Spoleto, he received a lot of congratulations from the other riders. Pinotti might be unknown by the general public, but he's highly respected in the bunch.

"I thanked Danilo Di Luca for letting our breakaway go, and he said it was a question of common interest," said Pinotti. "Gilberto (Simoni, his former teammate at Lampre) was also very happy for me. Everyone reminded me my mistake at the Tour of Romandie. Then it was a much quieter stage for me than the day before. Quick Step wanted to make the sprinters tired, exactly the same way they did in stage 2, that day Bettini came 2nd, today 3rd."

Pinotti could keep the pink jersey until stage 12, which arrives in Briançon after climbing the Izoard in France. "It's easier to say when we sit here at the press conference, but we never know," he said.

White tests his legs

Australian Matt White was one of the fighters in action in the last ten kilometres of the race prior to the final circuit on the car track at Mugello.

"Hey, this is a great place," Whitey said after the finish. "I love car racing circuits. I've to a few before. I'll always remember Suzuka in Japan."

Remembering his late attack, something like he did when racing his first Tour of Italy for Amore e Vita back in 1998, the Discovery Channel rider said, "I wanted to test the legs, that's it! We had no sprinter, and I was hoping that for a group to come and join. But Bettini got his guys to work for him, making it hard for the pure sprinters."

Hushovd finds lead-out man again

By Jean-François Quénet in Scarperia

Just like in Frascati behind Robert Förster, Thor Hushovd finished second on the car circuit of Mugello, but it was the opposite scenario at the end. "The other day, there were five meters too much for me and today, with five more meters, I would have passed Petacchi, I think," he said after the finish, although he didn't know how strongly Danilo Napolitano was coming from behind after being boxed in. Had the finishing line been located five meters further, it might have been in favour of the Lampre sprinter as well.

"Maybe I should have opened the sprint earlier but I didn't have the legs for that. I got dropped in the hill earlier on, and I spent in the chase the energy that I missed at the end," said the Norwegian. "My team did a great job bringing me across. I had five guys with me. I'm also very happy with Julian Dean's lead out. He placed me perfectly on Bettini's wheel." The New Zealander is Hushovd's favourite lead-out man and Saturday's finish was a good sign that the two will work really well together at the Tour de France.

Belohvosciks: Simoni's guardian angel

By Jean-François Quénet in Scarperia

After two seasons in the shadow racing for continental team Universal Caffè, Raivis Belohvosciks looks happy to be back at the highest level of professional cycling. Aged 31, he's employed as a domestique by Saunier Duval and he loves it.

"Every day, I have my face in the wind from start to finish with Gilberto Simoni protected behind me," said Belohvosciks on the start line at Spoleto.

"We have three of the best climbers with Simoni, Riccardo Riccó, and Leonardo Piepoli; hopefully there'll be different cards to play in the mountains," he added. "I think we can still win the Giro. The differences aren't that big, considering the difficulties to come."

The Latvian is known as a hard worker and also as a specialist for time trialing. He won the Chrono des Nations in France in October last year. "When my job will be finished at the end of the mountains, if I still have some energy to spend, I'll do my best in Verona's time trial, I know everything about the course, I'd like to do well there," concluded Belohvosciks.

Patanchon attacks to get stronger

By Jean-François Quénet in Scarperia

Frenchman Fabien Patanchon (Française des Jeux) of Bordeaux was one of the four men who attacked after kilometre nine in stage 7 from Spoleto to Scarperia. He went with Euskaltel's José Albizuri, Saunier Duval's Rubens Bertogliati, and Tinkoff's Elio Aggiano this time. They reached a maximum lead of 11:30 at kilometre 116, and got caught after 206 kilometres off the front.

"My idea was to go in a break yesterday," Patanchon explained. "But I didn't have the legs, and there was one hour of fights before the break went. So today I tried again."

"I thought they would let us go with a bigger advantage but Bettini got people to work behind, I understand. I want to do things like that for getting in good shape and having a super end of season." Patanchon is in his second year as a pro, and he's not going to ride the Tour de France although his former teammate from Entente Sud-Gascogne, Matthieu Ladagnous, will probably do it for FDJ.

"We're here with a young team, without any real leader nor a big sprinter, so we're here to get confidence and learn for the future," Patanchon said. "Carlos Da Cruz was our oldest rider but he had an accident before the start."

The French outfit also lost Ian McLeod who broke a collarbone and a rib.

Gudsell out after crash

Today, Française des Jeux racer Tim Gudsell crashed on the downhill of the Valico Croce a Mori after getting some water from his team car. The New Zealander missed a curve and was taken to the hospital of Borgo San Lorenzo where a deep cut in his left thigh was reported.

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