Fri, May 30, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Pirazzi claims maiden Giro win

BARDIANI’S WEEK:It was also Bardiani-CSF’s third victory inside a week after successes by Marco Canola and Enrico Battaglin on the 13th and 14th stages

AFP, MILAN, Italy

Italy’s Stefano Pirazzi of Bardiani-CSF, front left, celebrates after winning the 17th stage of the 97th Giro d’Italia from Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto, Italy, on Wednesday.

Photo: EPA

Italy’s Stefano Pirazzi of Bardiani-CSF held off a small group of chasers in the home straight to claim his maiden Giro d’Italia victory in the 17th stage on Wednesday.

Race leader Nairo Quintana of Movistar crossed the finish line with the peloton and his closest rivals nearly 15 minutes later following a 208km trek from Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto that saw a breakaway go unchallenged all the way to the finish.

Quintana, the runner-up on last year’s Tour de France, spent his first day in the race’s fabled maglia rosa and retained his 1 minute, 41 second lead over fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran of Omega Pharma-Quick Stap and a 3:21 cushion over Australian Cadel Evans of BMC Racing.

However, it was a tense day in the saddle for the 24-year-old Colombian, who was accused of foul play following his victory on stage 16 when he took the jersey from Uran, last year’s runner-up, and then faced calls for his time advantage to be canceled.

“We’re making a story out of nothing. Why should they take a time advantage away that I earned out on the road?” Quintana said of Tuesday’s controversy. “I don’t understand the problem. Most of the time I made, I did on the final climb.”

Uran’s Omega Pharma-Quick Staep team were on Tuesday among several to accuse the organizers and Quintana of foul play following an official radio announcement during the rain-plagued 16th stage that suggested the descent of the treacherous Stelvio climb would be “neutralised” — effectively not raced — because of the dangers posed by cold and wet conditions.

Organizers later claimed they had simply announced that a motorbike rider, with a pillion passenger waving a red flag, would be placed at the front of the race to warn of any dangers on the road ahead.

As some teams and riders heeded the organizers’ “advice,” others, like Quintana, forged on ahead regardless. Quintana claimed the win, the maglia rosa and put himself in contention for a first Grand Tour triumph four days before the finish.

“The results should have been canceled,” said the owner of Tinkoff-Saxo, Oleg Tinkoff, whose team leader Rafal Majka dropped to 3:28 behind Quintana on Tuesday.

Two meetings between several unhappy cycling teams were held, while the International Cycling Union (UCI) attempted to defuse the situation by tweeting that the organizers had “taken the initiative by putting motorbike riders ahead of the peloton” and that “security remains the main concern of all race organizers and the UCI.”

With moods tense, there was little reaction from the peloton when an early breakaway formed and went on to build a healthy lead that stood at 12 minutes with a little over 50km remaining.

After a series of attacks and counterattacks in the closing kilometers, Pirazzi broke free in the final 1.3km and just thwarted a small chasing group from ending his bid meters before the line.

His first Giro win was celebrated by a defiant gesture at the finish.

“It’s my response to all my critics,” Pirazzi explained.

“I’ve been searching five years for this victory, it was beginning to get me down, but finally I’ve done it,” the 27-year-old said. “A lot of people criticized my lack of results, but I can assure them I’ve been working hard. This is my reward for that.”

It was also Bardiani-CSF’s third win inside a week, following successes by Marco Canola and Enrico Battaglin on the 13th and 14th stages.

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