RAVENNA, Italy (VN) – The Giro d’Italia peloton will be smaller at the start line Friday as sprinters are expected to leave the corsa rosa in droves.
With no more sprint stages left between here to Milano, all the top sprinters are stepping out of the Giro and heading home.
“I will go home tonight,” said Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), just moments after winning his second stage. “The last week there are no more sprint stages. We’re professionals, not cyclo-tourists. I will go home and prepare for the Tour de France.”
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) also hinted that he would be heading home despite holding the lead in the red points jersey.
“Tonight I will decide if I stay. I come to this Giro in good shape and I am looking ahead to the Tour as well,” he said. “The team will be fighting for the pink jersey and I want to be able to help, but there are so many mountains and there are no more sprints, so it will be difficult to make it to Milan. We’ll see.”
Cycling legend Eddy Merckx appeared on the post-stage show on RAI TV and implored Cavendish to stay in the race a few more days to improve his climbing skills. Cavendish just shook his head and said he’s heading home.
Giro d’Italia race director Angelo Zomegnan has included a final-day time trial in the Giro yet again this year, meaning the sprinters don’t have much to race for.
“It is what it is. It’s nice to change things around a little bit, but would be nice to maybe have a few more opportunities for the sprinters,” said RadioShack’s Robbie Hunter. “There is no final sprint in Milano, so it will be hard for the sprinters to have a reason to keep going.”
Riders said the Giro simply becomes a suffer-fest with little or no payback for the sprinters, who are not much help to their GC captains once the race turns into the high mountains.
Most prefer to head home, recover from what’s been nearly two hard weeks of racing and prepare for the coming races.
Cavendish says Cipollini comments add motivation
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) was in a good mood following his second win at the Giro d’Italia on Thursday and wasn’t about to let criticism from Mario Cipollini ruin the party.
Cipollini called Cavendish “fat” in Wednesday’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport, but Cavendish said that only gives him extra motivation when it comes time to challenge for stage victories.
“Without realizing it, I take the positive side from it,” Cavendish said. “It’s good for me to have Cipo say something (like that). It makes me happy to prove him wrong. It’s an added incentive to win more, so I thank him for the concern.”
“If it means I win, then I’m OK. Is it better to be second and skinny? Let me remind you, I have the Tour de France in two months. I ride three grand tours this year and the worlds. I’ve been racing since the Tour Down Under in January. I am not super man. I was thin for the classics and I have to be thin for the Tour,” Cavendish said. “I don’t think I am so fat now.”
When asked how he would measure up against Cipollini in a sprint, Cavendish said he wouldn’t hold back from the challenge.
“I was lucky to get to do it in California and I did some silly things that I regret. For sure, I’d like to race against him and have a go,” he said. “I’d like to show I’m not that fat.”
Three days of hell
Fans might be looking forward to this weekend, but most riders are not.
The Giro enters its next decisive phase of racing, putting the bunch sprints into the rear-view mirror and climbing into the Dolomites for three fearsome stages.
The statistics are frightful enough: 14 rated climbs over three days with a total of 10,505 meters (34,666 vertical feet).
The crash report
•130km: Crash “without consequence” involving Maurilio Ardila (Geox-TMC), Manuel Cardoso (RadioShack), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r) and John Gadret (Ag2r)
•145km: Crash involving Julian Berard (Ag2r) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r), both finished the stage
•1800m to go: Crash involving Danilo Wyss (BMC) and Sacha Modolo (Colnago CSF-Inox); Modolo suffered cuts; both finished stage
• PINK: Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) retained his lead for the fourth day.
• RED: Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) widened his lead in the points jersey, with 96 points to Contador’s 77.
• GREEN: With no rated climbs, Filippo Savini (Colnago CSF-Inox) kept the climber’s jersey for the fourth day.
• WHITE: Roman Kreuziger (Astana) kept the young rider’s jersey for the fourth day.