Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has voiced his anger at being relegated from first place on stage five of the Tour of the Basque Country. The Spaniard was first across the line in the sprint in Zalla on Friday, but was stripped of his win after television images showed his teammate Luis Leon Sanchez appearing to push him with 200 metres to go.
Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-ISD) was awarded the win as a result of Freire’s relegation to 47th place on the stage. The Italian told Freire that it was Lampre-ISD directeur sportif Maurizio Piovani who had lodged an objection rather than the rider himself.
Nonetheless, the triple world champion Freire was indignant on hearing of the commissaires’ decision.
“It’s a disgrace,” Freire said afterwards, according to Marca. “Neither I nor anybody else expected it. I asked the guy who was second, Gavazzi, if he was ashamed to climb onto the podium because he was with me with 200 metres to go and I was quicker.”
Freire maintained that he had not been deliberately pushed by Luis Leon Sanchez, but rather that his teammate patted his back in order to let him know that he could pass.
“He touched me to tell me to pass,” Freire insisted. “There was still long enough to the finish and it was in the final 100 metres that I made the difference, not when I was touched.”
The eventual stage winner Gavazzi was one of 32 people named by Tuttobici yesterday as possibly facing charges after the conclusion of the Mantova-based investigation into alleged doping practices centred on pharmacist Guido Nigrelli and his involvement with the Lampre team.