Michele Acquarone and Mauro Vegni, the Giro's directors, present Michele Scarponi with the 2011 title
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Italian looks to win this year's race outright
Following a pre-race press conference with other GC contenders Roman Kreuziger, John Gadret, Fränk Schleck, Joaquim Rodriguez and Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi received the trophy of winner of the 2011 Giro d'Italia.
Earlier this year, the Court of Arbitration in Sport stripped Alberto Contador of the title due to the outcome of the clenbuterol affair. The Italian's name has replaced the one of the Spaniard on top of the "trofeo senza fine" (trophy without end) that was designed ten years ago to show that the Giro is a never ending story.
"I'll put it in the team's truck for now and I'll decide at the end of the Giro where to present it in my house," said the captain of the Lampre-ISD team. "Sincerely, I don't like to become the winner in these circumstances. My dream is to raise my arms up in the air in Milan with the trophy. If I can achieve that, the emotion will be huge and totally different. I don't want to think too much that I own this trophy now. I prefer to focus on the coming Giro. I want to win this one for good."
Asked who are his most dangerous rivals, he pointed at the riders on his sides, joked that "Thor Hushovd is one of them since he decided to ride for GC," – the Norwegian denied this, of course – and added: "I wouldn't underestimate the Androni team. It's one of the strongest teams of the Giro d'Italia." Scarponi who came fourth at the 2010 Giro riding for Androni knows the skills of José Rujano, José Serpa, Emanuele Sella and Fabio Felline pretty well.
"It's a different Giro this year without any absolute favorite like Contador was one year ago," Scarponi commented. "Our chances to win are more or less equal. The first week of the race will help us understand which riders and which teams will be ruling the event.
"Clearly, the first part will be the hardest to control. Last year when I started the Giro, I thought I'd be closer to Contador than I eventually was but I was also possibly too advanced in terms of physical condition. This year, I've started the season on a quieter note because the Giro will be decided in the last week. I feel good. I'm serene."
Scarponi denied that he was "shocked and annoyed by the late inclusion of Damiano Cunego", as was reported by some media. Cunego is on the Lampre-ISD roster but the 2004 Giro d'Italia champion was not part of the press conference because his role on the team isn't the one of a captain. "No, I come to this Giro with determination," Scarponi answered. "With Damiano on my side, it'll be an advantage compared to my adversaries. The problems of his presence at the Giro is for the other teams, not for ours. Everyone at Lampre is very motivated. Liquigas also has a great team but I wouldn't change my team for any other."
Questioned this week by Eurosport, Contador has designated Scarponi as the hot favorite for this year's Giro. "Alberto knows cycling very well!," his former teammate at Liberty Seguros said. "I thank him for this comment. But I'm not the only favorite. [Ivan Basso] is here to win for the third time. [Joaquim] Rodriguez has had a great early season, he's not here for nothing, Roman Kreuziger is also a favorite. And Fränk Schleck is not here to have a token role. It's hard to say who is more a favorite than another one.
"The gradients are towards the end of the Giro but the prologue and the wind in Denmark can change the face of the race. All of us also remember stage 11 to L'Aquila in 2010. Nobody expected the gaps created on that day. The Giro is a difficult task every single day."
- Giro d'Italia