After a bunch sprint at the Giro d'Italia, the victor's press conference normally hangs on a breathless description of the final metres of his winning effort. There was a slight twist on the formula in Montecatini Terme on Wednesday, however, as stage 11 winner Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) spent much of his time revisiting another bunch finish altogether.
Ferrari was responsible for sparking the mass pile-up that brought down Mark Cavendish (Sky) and maglia rosa Taylor Phinney (BMC) in the finale of stage 3 in Horsens, and has been painted as the pariah of the sprinting world ever since, with the world champion himself among those wielding the brush. In the face of such negative publicity, the Italian readily admitted that his first Giro stage win could not have come at a more opportune time.
"I really wanted to win a stage because I wanted to show that I had the legs to win a stage that day [stage 3]," Ferrari said. "I didn't mean to do what I did, and I'm still apologising for what I did. Unfortunately, it was the kind of manoeuvre that happens a lot in a sprint and we only talk about them when there's a crash."
Ferrari hadn't been involved at the sharp end of a bunch finish since the Giro returned to Italy, but he denied that he had felt any kind of psychological block as he hurtled into the final bend almost shoulder to shoulder with the rainbow jersey.
"In the last kilometre when I was alongside Cavendish, he gave me a look and I understood what he meant but you know, I'm a sprinter and the important thing is to do your sprint," Ferrari said. "I found myself in the right place at the right time and I did it."
Speaking on the Processo alla Tappa programme after the finish, Cavendish congratulated Ferrari on his victory, but pointedly noted that he was fortunate that he was still in the race. Be that as it may, however, there could be no disputing the merits of Ferrari's victory in Montecatini Terme. After gingerly rounding the final bend just ahead of Cavendish, he duly overhauled the fading Tomas Vaitkus (Orica-GreenEdge) on the drag up to the line to claim a resounding triumph, while Francesco Chicchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) closed to finish second.
"Cavendish said that if he'd done it, they would have sent him home, and I'm grateful to the jury. They saw that while the crash was my fault, it certainly wasn't deliberate," Ferrari said.
The 29-year-old also paid tribute to his manager at Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, the charismatic Gianni Savio. After showing some flashes of potential in his previous iterations at Tenax, LPR and De Rosa, Ferrari credited a more balanced programme for his emergence as a sprinter at the highest level. His debut Giro came just twelve months ago, when he showed more sustained signs of life with a series of top ten placings.
"Before now, I'd never ridden a lot, or at least not consistently through the year," Ferrari said. "But thanks to Gianni I've done a full calendar for the past two seasons."
Ferrari's belated blossoming as a fast man of some note in some ways mirrors the trajectory of his former LPR teammate Alessandro Petacchi's career, although he was reluctant to speculate if, like Petacchi at Lecce in 2003, his first Giro stage win would prove to a watershed moment in his career.
"Of course, I'd like to develop into a rider like Petacchi, although I don't think my motor is the same," Ferrari said shyly. "But I'll do the best I can."