PARMA, Italy (VN) — Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) says his success in the sprints has fermented a bias against him among race commissaires and officials regulating the races and suggested he is being “singled out” when it comes to jury decisions.
The Manxster’s building angst overflowed at the end of Sunday’s slightly uphill sprint against a headwind in the Giro d’Italia’s first bunch sprint. Cavendish was pumping his hand in frustration after losing to Alessandro Petacchi because he claims the Lampre sprinter veered off his line and disrupted his sprint.
“In the past, every time I move one centimeter off my line, I am disqualified,” Cavendish said. “I felt hard-done, because for the same movement, I would have been disqualified.”
Cavendish said he’s not treated fairly and put the blame on commissaires and race juries whom he suggested are biased against him since he’s become the No. 1 sprinter in the world.
“It’s the price of success, whether it’s other riders, other teams, the jury or race officials, it’s how it is. It’s what I gotta deal with. It’s the price of being successful,” Cavendish continued. “In the past, I’ve been disqualified for other things. Now I feel like I have to watch out for everything I do. It’s not fair for me to take that out on Alessandro today. It’s not his fault I am being singled out.”
Cavendish and Petacchi later spoke about the sprint when they shared the podium ceremony. Cavendish took the pink jersey and had a chance to speak to the Italian sprinter once the emotion of the sprint finish cooled down. He later apologized in a post-race press conference, calling Petacchi a “great champion.”
“For me to take out my frustration on Alessandro is not fair. So when I had time to calm down and think logically, when the adrenaline stopped going, it’s not fair for me to make a complaint about Alessandro for my frustration with other people,” he said. “Everyone knows, that for a sprinter, winning is everything. It’s hard for anyone to imagine the adrenaline that’s pumping through you when you cross the line. In the sprint today, I felt that Alessandro moved from his line. In my eyes, he turned left, he used his tactics to block me.”
HTC-Highroad sport director Valerio Piva also believed that Petacchi closed down Cavendish, but said efforts to make their case against the top Italian star in the Giro’s first sprint fell on deaf ears.
“The rules clearly say that a rider cannot change from his line in a sprint. Petacchi did not stay on his line. He was in the middle of the road and moved to his left and closed down Mark, but the jury said no,” Piva said. “If Cav’ had done something that like (pauses) … I don’t want to make a war. He didn’t have to do this to beat Mark. It’s not fair play. Mark came back twice on his sprint and nearly won. If it was two or three more meters, he could have passed him.”
Petacchi — who earned the nickname as the “Gentleman Sprinter” during his heyday for his clean sprints — quickly discounted Cavendish’s complaint.
“Everyone can believe what they want, but my version of the story is that I made a correct sprint. I spoke with Mark after the finish and he told me that I made an error in the sprint. It was not on purpose and I did not try to close him down. I want to fight with him against him on the same level and the best one wins,” he said.
“I never did anything against him, because I want fair play. Mark reacted emotionally after the stage, but he’s still young and still somewhat instinctive and you make some mistakes. I made a correct sprint. To win after almost 250km, you have to have good legs.”
Petacchi also complimented Cavendish and called him cycling’s “best sprinter right now” and said Cavendish is sure to win a stage in this Giro.
Right now, it’s Petacchi 1; Cavendish 0.