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Mountains classification leader Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox)
Aggressive Italian carries blue jersey to Brescia
The cancellation of stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia meant that Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) had already sealed the mountains classification by the time the race tackled its final climbs on Saturday, but as has been the case throughout the race, the Italian was still on the offensive as soon as the road went uphill.
Although Pirazzi held an unassailable 34-point lead over Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) coming into the stage, he opted to show off his blue jersey by attacking out of the maglia rosa group on the penultimate climb of the Passo Tre Croci and picking up the points for third place behind the early break.
"It was only right that I honoured this jersey on the last stage, so I think I did well to go on the attack and show that my condition was still good and that I deserved this jersey even though they cut the stage on Friday," Pirazzi told Cyclingnews.
As well as the elimination of stage 19 and the climbs of the Gavia, Stelvio and Val Martello, the extreme weather at this Giro also saw Sestriere removed from stage 14 and the climbs of the Passo Costalunga, Passo San Pellegrino and Passo Giau cut from stage 20. Pirazzi insisted that their absence took nothing away from his achievement.
"No, certainly not because if they'd left the route as it was supposed to be, I would have attacked on the Gavia anyway, and I think I still would have brought this jersey to Brescia," he said.
Pirazzi's aggression has been a feature of this Giro – along with the "Tutti Pazzi per Pirazzi" banners feting the Lazio native on the roadside – but his instincts were out of kilter with those of much of the rest of the peloton on stage 15.
In frigid conditions on the Mont Cenis, a go-slow was loosely agreed among the bunch's senators, to the chagrin of Bardiani directeur Roberto Reverberi, who drove to the front of the peloton to admonish the men he felt to be the ringleaders.
In the end, Pirazzi was allowed to break the détente near the summit and claim the mountains points on offer, but the polemica rumbled on into the rest day, as the newspapers picked up on allegations that Reverberi had allegedly labelled Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) and Luca Paolini (Katusha) as Mafiosi.
"We're a Pro Continental team and we're only at the Giro because we got an invitation, so it's only right than Bardiani and all the Bardiani riders honour all of the stages of the Giro d'Italia," Pirazzi said diplomatically. "There was a bit of annoyance last Sunday but it's in the past now and we're all just happy to be getting to Brescia."
Pirazzi finishes the Giro in 44th place overall, and admitted that he had sacrificed all other ambitions in order to chase the blue jersey. "This year, I put everything into the maglia azzurra and prioritised that over the GC or anything else," he said. "Next year, the next step would be to come to the Giro and win a stage."