Giro d’Italia: Giovanni Visconti vs Diego Ulissi
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Giro d’Italia: Giovanni Visconti vs Diego Ulissi

by Ben Atkins at 4:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
Post stage polemics follow Italian champion’s relegation

diego ulissiThe script at the end of today’s seventeenth stage of the Giro d’Italia was simple: The Italian champion, riding his national Tour in the flag of his country, wins the first true breakaway stage of the race in the 150th anniversary of the unification of his country. While Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) was by far the strongest rider at the finish though, he didn’t take the stage; despite crossing the line first, Visconti was relegated to third for pushing Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD), who was awarded the victory.

"If I had not moved Ulissi, I would have fallen,” said Visconti in his own defence after the stage, “but when I did, I lost the race."

Not only did Visconti lose the race, but he also lost some money, with the Giro's commissaires fining him 200 Swiss Francs over the incident.

Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli sporting director Luca Scinto was equally defensive of his own rider, although he did concur that the Italian champion had been wrong to use his hands in the sprint.

"We are the moral winners of the stage,” he said, “and if I can express my opinion: If I was on the jury, I would have relegated both. Visconti for having raised his hands from the handlebars; Ulissi for closing the gap, despite Visconti’s screams."

The criticism that came from most sides after the stage though, was that Visconti – by far the fastest finisher in what was by then down to a four-man group – should have gone to the right hand side of Ulissi as he opened up his sprint, where he would have had the whole road to aim at. Instead, he chose to go through a narrow gap, which narrowed further as the Lampre-ISD rider rocked out of the saddle.

"But there was wind,” explained Visconti, “and anyone who has raced a bicycle understands what that means. I saw an opening on the left; I went for it. Then Ulissi moved his line. If he hadn't I'd now have a stage of the Giro d’Italia in my pocket."

Visconti’s superior speed was obvious for all to see as, although he had twice taken his hands off the bars to gesticulate and push Ulissi, he still crossed the line ahead of the others with ease.

“Instead I was wrong to move him,” he added, “and I have to settle for the third place, which still shows that I was there."

Ulissi, in the stage winner’s press conference, was insistent that what he had done at the end of the stage was no different to what can happen at the end of any race; in fact he had ridden the finish of the stage with the superior sprint of the Italian champion in mind.

“I tried to surprise Visconti by starting from a long way out because he is faster in the sprint,” he explained. “It was also slightly uphill, so it was suited to my characteristics.

“Maybe I moved a little,” he admitted, “but I've seen much worse in my career; and there are the judges [to make decisions] for this.”

In addition to his dissatisfaction with Ulissi’s sprinting, Visconti had also made the accusation, on an Italian TV post race show, that Ulissi had not done his fair share of the work in the breakway. While the 21-year-old was ready to admit to this, he was keen to stress that he was far from the only one.

“My job, once into the escape,” he explained, “was to be a little sly. Skip some turns, try to hide; just as others did. For example, Saxo Bank [Jesus Hernandez – ed] never did anything on the front.

“I had to, at all costs,” he added, “do my best to win the stage in a sprint finish. My eyes were fixed on the banner; I was hoping to get to it as quickly as possible. That's it.”

For Visconti, there are two more chances to try for his stage win, wearing the tricolore in this historic year, before the race heads to Sestriere and Milan at the weekend. Thursday’s stage to San Pelligrino Terme is already in the team’s sights, and the flouro yellow team will be in the hunt once more.

“Because the Giro is not over,” he said.

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