By Anthony Tan
With the Tour de France off his race schedule next year, Liquigas-Bianchi rider Dario Cioni will be placing all his Grand Tour eggs in one basket at his home event. However, after attending the presentation of the 89th Giro d'Italia in Milan a little over two weeks ago, the normally placid Italian walked away an angry man.
It wasn't so much the presentation itself, held amidst typical Italian fanfare at Milano's Mazda Palace auditorium. It was the controversial double stage - rejected by the Professional Riders' Association (CPA), the Italian Professional Riders' Association (ACCPI) and CSC's Jens Voigt, active riders' representative within the UCI ProTour Council (CUPT) - which, despite significant disapproval, has still found its way on the 2006 parcours.
"I'm not happy about that, not at all," a steaming Cioni told Cyclingnews.
"Let's remember, they're asking us to race twice on the last day of a three-week stage race, one of these stages being a hill climb. I'm not sure we're going to ride that; not only because of the riders' association, but also the team managers and sporting directors are not happy either - the only people that are happy about this are the Giro organisers and some retired riders, who don't remember how hard it was racing."
Fourth overall at the 2004 Giro, Cioni remarked that with the last eight stages in the mountains, the final week of the 2006 Giro is tough enough and will invariably decide the race outcome, irrespective of the climb up the Madonna del Ghisallo. Despite the intentions of the race organiser RCS to make the final day visually exciting, as well as paying tribute to the museum at the top of the climb, Cioni fears what one will see is an extremely tired majority trying to make the time limit.
"I don't think that would be very spectacular, do you?" asks the recently turned 31 year-old. "Let's remember, we've still got a 130 kilometre stage to ride to Milan, so I'm sure a solution can be found.
"The rider's health is such a big issue now," Cioni said with a sigh. "I don't think this is really healthy for the riders. It's not a double-stage on the first day of the Giro - it's the last day - and we've already been on the bike for 20 days in a row. The last rest day is ten days before, anyway, and we've already done 3,500 kilometres and who knows how many climbs before that."
If the organisers still want to run a double stage, said Cioni, do it halfway through, not on the last day. "There's also a [unwritten] condition that says the last day is like a parade; they do it at the Tour - I can't see why we can't do it at the Giro."
Look out for the interview with Dario Cioni tomorrow.