TERAMO, Italy (VN) – Controversy follows Mark Cavendish like a “marching band,” but it was more like a Mack truck Tuesday as riders accused him of taking tows on Mount Etna’s stage on Sunday.
Cavendish stormed to his first stage victory at this year’s Giro, but quickly found himself the center of a firestorm after Spanish rider Fran Ventoso (Movistar) accused him of hanging onto a team car during the two passages up Etna on Sunday.
“I can say that during my whole career, it’s been the same story. I’m always dropped, but if I finish within the time limit, it means I cheat,” Cavendish said. “If I stop for a piss, if I crash and change a wheel, anything I do, I have a commissaire on me. There’s always TV camera on me. I have an ice cream truck with me, I have a marching band following me! If it was possible to cheat, I would be caught.”
Cavendish finished last in Sunday’s stage, crossing the line with three HTC-Highroad teammates and three other riders at 26:35 back, making the time cut by just 30 seconds.
“We rode like our lives depended on it. We knew it was going to be close. Everyone saw how fast the descent was (off the first passage up Etna), well, we got two minutes back on the downhill,” Cavendish said. “That last climb was brutal. Usually people work in a group, but it was every man for himself. Everyone had to go full gas to make the time cut.”
Ventoso didn’t duck at the finish line in Teramo. After finishing second to Cavendish in the sprint, he reconfirmed earlier statements and yet again accused Cavendish and his HTC teammates of taking pulls up Etna.
“Everyone clearly saw it. And it wasn’t just Cavendish, but also his set-up men and the ones who pull the peloton along at 70kph. They had two rest days,” Ventoso said. “We should all feel cheated. I don’t know if it’s the commissaires making exceptions or just turning the blind eye. If he’s pulling on the car, he should be sent home.”
There was no reaction Sunday from race officials and there have been no photos or videos that have appeared online that would confirm Ventoso’s version.
Cavendish shot back at Ventoso, but refused to take the bait entirely.
“If Ventoso wants to start a fight with me about who cheats, I can push it back on him,” Cavendish said in a veiled comment to Ventoso’s 2008 doping case for diuretics. “I could make some accusations against Ventoso about cheating, but I am not going to because I don’t need to.”
The issue will likely simmer, especially with Ventoso riding on good form and only one real sprint opportunity remaining in this Giro in Thursday’s 12th stage.