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Michele Scarponi (Liberty Seguros, 3rd) Michele Scarponi (Liberty Seguros) latched onto the lead...
Michele Scarponi (Liberty Seguros, 3rd)
Michele Scarponi (Liberty Seguros) latched onto the lead group today and finished third in the stage, which moved him up to seventh on the general classification. "The stage was much more nervous than was expected because, the end was very difficult," said Scarponi. "The team knew since the morning what could happen, and my teammates stayed close to me during the whole race. A fall in the last 30 kilometres cut the group, but Caruso, Hruska and I made it in front. From there I was ahead, because the last descent was very dangerous."
Serguei Gonchar's crash at 3 km to go actually caused the split that led to the six man group getting away. "I had to be ahead in order that the same thing didn't happen to me as it did in Tropea," said Scarponi. "In the sprint, I am not very good, but I was lucky, because I almost crashed with Cooke. I saw him, but did not see what happened, because I saw only that I had Mazzanti and Cioni ahead. Then I have seen the sprint and, though Bettini is my friend, the disqualification is just."
Scarponi was very satisfied with his own result. "This especially gives me confidence because I have had very good legs. The result is not so important, they are only a few seconds. The Giro begins after this. Tomorrow's stage is very important, because only a group of 30 riders will contest the finish. For me, the Florence time trial next Sunday will be important, without forgetting that every day there can be a surprise."
Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto, 8th)
Robbie McEwen lost his points jersey to Paolo Bettini today, and had to work very hard in the finale to finish in the top 10. Cyclingnews spoke to him just after he crossed the line, as he was pulling in big gasps of air. "Today was pretty straightforward. It was really full on coming into the climb. My boys took me to the front before the climb. They started hitting out, but a kilometre from the top they went a bit more. The strongest guys were on the front and the guys behind couldn't descend fast enough. I made up a lot of places under brakes. I came back to the second group, tried to go straight past them from 400m, just hoping the front guys would stop. but it didn't happen. Another day. It'll be a few more days before I get another chance."
Later on, we asked McEwen about the incident involving his usual rival Baden Cooke: "I didn't know what happened when I crossed the line. I watched it on TV later. Maybe Baden picked the wrong side, but Bettini was very close to the centre, so what side do you go? He's just done a left turn and went into the barrier. It was that blatant. He should have been disqualified. It doesn't make up for the stage win that Baden should have got. It's just not on."
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo, 20th)
Alessandro Petacchi, still without a win in his home country Grand Tour, is waiting for an opportunity to show his worth. After stage four, which was taken by Luca Mazzanti (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) in a controversial sprint finish involving a crashing Baden Cooke and a relegated Paolo Bettini, the Fassa Bortolo super sprinter said, "It was a flat stage, but the finale was hard, at least for me. I climbed that last bit on the 53, it was tough but I stayed with Zabel and McEwen all along."
Petacchi finished the stage in 20th position. "The first stages of the Giro are always very nervous," he continued. "The parcours is hard, but I feel very good, better than last year, even if I haven't won yet. The Giro is still long and I'm waiting for the next bunch sprint finish."
Trent Wilson (Colombia-Selle Italia, 149th)
One rider who was out of the picture by the time the sprint started was Trent Wilson (Colombia-Selle Italia), who finished in 149th at 4'05 down. He did have a short moment in the limelight when he attacked just as the day's break of Marco Pinotti and Cedric Vasseur was caught. "Ah well, it was just for the TV cameras," said Willo. "I had a bit of a bash, I felt OK, but they were never going to let me go. I knew that."
Ivan Quaranta (Domina Vacanze, 158th)
Ivan Quaranta, interviewed by Italian television, said that, "If they strip Bettini today, the day that McEwen won, they should have penalised a lot of riders," adding that "Cooke took the wrong trajectory."