Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) suffered a crash while training on Mount Etna on Tuesday morning, but the Italian’s participation in the Tour de France is not in doubt.
Basso fell and hit his face and right shoulder against the road. Accompanied by directeur sportif Paolo Slongo, he was taken immediately for treatment in Liguaglossa, where he received 15 stitches to his right cheek and his right eyebrow, on the supeciliary arch.
The accident came after Basso caught his rear wheel in a drain cover while taking a corner.
“I got a real fright because the impact was violent and, above all, in a delicate place like the face,” Basso said. “Fortunately I was given attention very quickly and the x-ray ruled out the worst. I could have done without this incident but certainly it will not stop my preparation for the Tour. I will get back on course again gradually in the coming days.”
Basso is set to remain training on Etna until May 28, as he prepares for the Criterium du Dauphiné, his last major test before the Tour de France.
Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad) expects two opportunities for the sprinters on the second week of the Giro d’Italia. The Australian also outlined how the finales of Giro stages are often more technically demanding than at the Tour de France.
“We’ve definitely earmarked today [as a bunch sprint],” Renshaw told Cyclingnews ahead of Tuesday’s stage to Teramo. “Tomorrow I think will be too difficult for a bunch sprint and the last day into Ravenna will be our last chance for a sprint finish.”
Chances for the fast men were few and far between in the opening week of the Giro. The opening road stage to Parma the sole mass finish contested by a full complement on sprinters, as Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) bested Renshaw’s teammate Mark Cavendish.
“We were unlucky not to win the first stage with Cav,” Renshaw said. “He had good legs but he just made maybe an error and Petacchi got the better of him.”
Saturday’s stage to Tropea was one of the few days that seemed to present the possibility of a bunch finish in the opening week, but Alberto Contador’s attack in the closing kilometres underlined the difference between finishes at the Giro and the Tour de France.
“They’re a lot more difficult than a Tour de France stage finish,” Renshaw explained. “In the Tour we have a whole team dedicated to leading out the finish. Here we’ve got a few less riders. The parcours are always very difficult. Zomegnan always wants a spectacle, so he throws in tight turns, little hills.”
UCI President expresses anger, defends UCI's use of biological passport
Pat McQuaid, the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), today published an "open letter to all riders and team members" in response to French newspaper L'Equipe's disclosure of a confidential "index of suspicion" list regarding riders taking part in the 2010 Tour de France.
McQuaid confirmed that the UCI is opening a judicial inquiry to investigate the source of the leak as well as supporting the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) independent investigation of the release of the document.
McQuaid also expressed his anger at the publication of the document, but defended its creation.
"I make no apologies for the fact that UCI will continue to take every measure possible to protect clean athletes," said McQuaid. "Our objective, shared by many of you, is a doping free cycling, one where the values of ethics and fair play are cherished.
"Our objective has never been to create lists of suspects, but rather to provide ourselves with the most effective tool possible to optimise our resources - which are not unlimited - as well as to ensure the effectiveness of our approach. The battle against doping has, for a long time, been a priority for the UCI, even to the extent that it could sometimes be considered to be over-emphasised in our sport.
The complete text of McQuaid's letter follows:
I write to you following last week's regrettable disclosure of confidential information in the French daily newspaper l'Equipe, under the title "UCI's secret list".
I am fully aware of the anger and strong reactions that the publication has generated, and I can tell you that I was angry as well.
I can confirm that the International Cycling Union is taking steps in order to open a judicial enquiry into the source of this leak, without further delay.
Furthermore, the UCI offered its full support to the independent investigation launched by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and I trust that we will soon discover how these events occurred and identify the individuals responsible.
In addition, management of the UCI anti-doping and legal departments are reviewing the security procedures put in place to guarantee the confidentiality of information in order to check if and where they might be improved.
With this I wanted to inform you of the steps being taken and to reassure you of the UCI's utter determination to resolve this very delicate situation.
However we cannot undo the facts and I am very sorry for those who now feel directly affected by this disclosure.
But let us also examine the core issue. Why draw up a list such as this? What does it mean to be included on the list? How should the information that the list contains be interpreted?
It is essential to understand that this is not a list that indicates degrees of suspicion of doping, but a working document that establishes an order of priority for carrying out doping tests.
This priority list is drawn up on the basis of different elements that may be useful to identify priorities when conducting a testing programme on a group of 200 riders: it is not possible to test all of them 10 times, so a list of priorities has to be established based upon a number of indications and not upon coincidence or discretion. Such indications are: the raw data of the haematological profile in the blood passport (so without taking into account whichever explanation for such data), the circumstance whether the rider has been tested recently and how often, sporting considerations (results, ranking, race programme, ambition, objectives). Bringing all this information together allowed the creation of the list.
We have all recognised the value of the biological passport on many occasions. Those involved in the fight against doping have all welcomed the extraordinary possibilities that targeting offers compared with traditional controls. The global sporting community as a whole applauded this new approach, which it considered to be optimal and at the cutting edge. Some of you even pleaded that the blood passport should be used as targeting instrument only.
Once again I understand the discontent of the riders and their entourage about the leak, which I also consider as completely unacceptable, but I frankly find it difficult to share their surprise and indignation at the content of the document where it is also taking into account the data of the blood passport. Team managers - you will be well aware of the programme to which you have largely contributed the financing. Riders - you are the only individuals able to access, at any time, all the analysis results of your profile, as recorded in your biological passport.
I have introduced these issues into the discussion because I am increasingly convinced that the basis for the success of an innovative programme such as the biological passport is the individual responsibility of each rider and the collective responsibility of each team.
So riders and teams must not be indignant at the blood passport being used to the maximum of its possibilities, bearing in mind that at the stage of the priority list the passport data are no evidence of whatever (which is the reason why the document is confidential).
Our objective has never been to create lists of suspects, but rather to provide ourselves with the most effective tool possible to optimise our resources - which are not unlimited - as well as to ensure the effectiveness of our approach. The battle against doping has, for a long time, been a priority for the UCI, even to the extent that it could sometimes be considered to be over emphasised in our sport. Yet it must be admitted that the reality of the situation does not allow us to act otherwise.
I make no apologies for the fact that UCI will continue to take every measure possible to protect clean athletes. Our objective, shared by many of you, is a doping free cycling, one where the values of ethics and fair play are cherished.
I hope that these explanations will assist you to reach an objective judgment of a situation that is undeniably disagreeable. Please find attached further information on the subject.
Cavendish was a dominant winner in the stage 10 sprint in Teramo, seeing off Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) in the final 150 metres to take his first stage win of a Giro with relatively restricted opportunities for the sprinters. His win was all the more impressive for his improvisation in the final two kilometres, as he abandoned his usual HTC-Highroad lead-out to take advantage of Alessandro Petacchi's train.
The winner's press conference, however, was dominated by the fall-out from allegations that Cavendish had held on to passing cars on Sunday's stage to Etna as he battled to stay inside the time limit. Ironically, the accuser-in-chief was Ventoso, and Cavendish was keen to refute the Spaniard's claims.
"I challenge Ventoso to spend one day in the back group with me," Cavendish said. "He will see then that if I stop to piss, if I stop to change my wheel, if I crash - I have commissaire with me every time, I have a television camera with me every time, I have a f***ing ice cream truck with me the whole time."
Never a man shy of giving as good as he gets, be it in the finishing straight or in his exchanges with the press, Cavendish levelled a few veiled accusations of his own at Ventoso for good measure.
"I could easily make some accusations against Ventoso for cheating if wanted to, but I'm not going to," Cavendish said enigmatically.
Cavendish is no stranger to controversy, of course, and there was more than a flicker of irritation in his expression when one brave soul reminded him of some of his past indiscretions, including the dangerous finishing straight crash in last year's Tour of Switzerland. Denying that he was at fault there, Cavendish maintained that the polemics that surround him are simply a consequence of his success.
"All my career I've had accusations against me," he said. "It's part and parcel of being at the top. Everybody says 'Ignore it, it's just jealousy.' Somebody who's at the top, people are going to pull them down."
Winning without a team?
After Petacchi's startling efforts in week one, Cavendish returned to his place at the top of the sprinting pyramid with a fine stage victory in Teramo. So often the beneficiary of an armchair ride to the finish from his HTC-Highroad team, Cavendish's win on Tuesday was at least in part to his tactical nous in the frenetic run-in to the line.
"There was just Rasmussen, Renshaw and myself left with 2km to go, which was a bit far, which meant I had to take Petacchi's wheel," Cavendish said. "I fought for Petacchi's wheel and as soon as I was on Petacchi's wheel with 1500 metres to go, I knew I was in the best position.
"I just had to wait for Petacchi to go and come around him. He went with 250 to go and I went with 150 to go."
In spite of his delight at snaring a stage victory in this most mountainous of Giri, the relative weakness of Cavendish's team in respect to two seasons ago will surely be a concern. While at the business end of the sprint, he can still rely on Mark Renshaw's pitch-perfect lead-outs, not all of the wagons of his train are running as smoothly as in his golden year of 2009.
"It's not the same team as in the past," Cavendish said. "In terms of heart and commitment, for sure it's the same team. In terms of ability, of the strength and experience of the team, it's not the same."
With Cavendish's contract at HTC-Highroad set to expire at the end of the season, his plans for 2012 are sure to be the subject of intense scrutiny in the coming months. While pleased with the endeavour of his companions, Cavendish did not back away from admitting that he would benefit from greater strength in depth.
"I think we took it for granted when I was winning every sprint I entered," he said. "Without a team I can win a lot of races, but with a team I can win every race.
"With the team we used to have we won everything. Now we win but not the same like we did. But that's not because of a lack of commitment."
Italian disappointed to have gifted stage to Cavendish
Coming under the red kite, Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) was looking set to seal his status as the top sprinter in the Giro d'Italia. Tucked snugly in Danilo Hondo's slipstream and with the HTC-Highroad train seemingly derailed, the man from La Spezia must have fancied his chances during stage 10 as the peloton bowled down the finishing straight.
In opening his sprint with 250 metres to go, however, Petacchi did little more than offer the perfect lead-out to a grateful Mark Cavendish, who cruised past to take his first stage win of this Giro.
After the finish, Petacchi was a picture of regret as he spoke to reporters in the shadow of the podium, the bleakness of his expression spectacularly at odds with the colourful bouquet of flowers he had just been awarded as leader of the points competition.
"I made a mistake, I went too early," Petacchi said dolefully. "Having Cavendish on my wheel and going so early on a finish like that, at 250 metres to go, I just gave him the victory."
Petacchi ultimately faded to finish third behind Cavendish and Francisco Ventoso (Movistar). Although he had insisted that his sprint form was in doubt before the Giro began, the fruits of Petacchi's April training camp at Etna has been apparent throughout the race, particularly on the slopes of the volcano itself on Sunday.
"I'm sorry because my teammates worked very hard, and they really wanted me to win here," Petacchi said quietly, praising the efforts of Alessandro Spezialetti in particular. "It was a nice stage too - fast, although maybe there was a bit too much of a headwind."
With pure bunch finishes at a premium in this Giro, Petacchi, Cavendish et al know that they have limited opportunity to shine before the mountains loom definitively into view.
Were there any lessons Petacchi could take from this defeat ahead of what many feel will be the final remaining sprint showdown in Ravenna on Thursday? "I don't need to learn. I've been doing sprints for 16 years," Petacchi growled.
Ten days into the race, the score in the Giro's much-anticipated sprint match reads Cavendish 1, Petacchi 1. Next goal wins.
UnitedHealthcare's GC man talks about first climbing stage
The Amgen Tour of California will put the sprinters into the background for a day and focus instead on the climbing specialists who will battle for the stage victory atop Sierra Road and the riders for the general classification hoping to take time on their rivals.
UnitedHealthcare's Rory Sutherland is one rider who will be under pressure to perform on the two sizeable climbs: first to Mount Hamilton - the first significant climb of the race and a true test for the legs - and second to first summit finish in the history of the race on Sierra Road.
"It's been a strange race: yesterday was an interesting feeling in the group, I think everyone is a bit out of whack with not being prepared properly due to being in the snow. It was good to get some racing done and open the legs up."
Tomorrow's climbing stage, he said, is all for the GC men. "It's the moment to see where everyone's at. Everybody's worried about it of course. You come into the bottom and if you have good legs on a climb like that then you're good, but if you don't you can lose a lot of time."
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The dream of Team Sky management to attract Mark Cavendish remains alive but they do have contingency plans in place. Up-and-coming Italian fast man Davide Appollonio adds another layer to Sky’s already overflowing sprint ranks. Appollonio, a native of the Molise region, finished fifth in stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia and his result is impressive for someone riding their first Giro d'Italia.
"To have four places in the top ten of my first Giro isn’t bad at all", he told Cyclingnews after stage 10.
"Today I managed to take Cavendish’s wheel but I need more experience to compete against him really", Appollonio said. "I hesitated for a little while and Ventoso took my place. But I was happy thinking that it’s good to be regularly in the top positions of the sprints."
'AppoJet' - a nickname he got in reference to "AleJet" Petacchi in the U17 category - is from the generation of Andrea Guardini (both born in 1989). While the Giro was considered too hard for Guardini, Team Sky opted to give Appollonio his first start at a Grand Tour.
Sporting Director Nicholas Portal described Appollonio’s hunger for racing as a really positive thing to see from a youngster.
"The good thing with Davide is that he’s never happy with himself", Portal said.
"He always seems disappointed because of not winning but we tell him, ‘hey, look who is ahead of you, you have time.’ We also remind him of his age. He’s only 21! He’s got everything to become a great rider. He has a good mentality and he’s humble. His spirit will take him high in cycling."
Portal sees Appollonio as a challenger for the best sprinters in a near future.
"He’s explosive and strong in the hills. Uphill finishes will become his forte", predicted the Frenchman.
A stage winner at the Tour du Limousin in his pro debut with Cervélo at the age of just 20 last year, Appollonio might well be the star in the making that the British team has been looking for to match their commercial interests in Italy. Perhaps with the rise of Ben Swift in 2011 as well as Appollonio, Sky will turn their focus away from Cavendish, and instead look to build a dynasty with their younger stars.
The Giro d’Italia continues with the 142km 11th stage from Tortoreto to Castelfidardo.