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Riccardo Riccò has shrugged off comments made by Mark Cavendish that he is a "parasite" and insists he is remorseful about taking CERA before the 2008 Tour de France.
Riccò’s 20-month ban for taking the banned blood boosting drug ends on March 18, just two days before Milano-Sanremo, which he hopes to ride. On Friday Riccò is expected to be the star of the Flaminia team presentation in Italy.
When Gazzetta dello Sport offered Ricco a right to reply to Cavendish’s strong words, he also had a few things to say.
“Why am I parasite? What does he mean when he says I’ve shown no remorse?” Ricco asked.
“I even helped the anti-doping investigators and that’s why they gave me a 20-month ban instead of 24 months. Of course, he (Cavendish) is at the peak of his career and so he can say what he wants.”
“I’m not going to respond because I’m the last person who can speak after what I did. He’s the number-one sprinter in the world and so he’s always right. I’m in the wrong and can’t respond until we see each other on the road. However I’m not that bothered about what he’s said or what he thinks. I can only guarantee people that I’m training hard and I’m already at a very good level.”
When told that Cavendish has the urge to get off the bike and hit him, Riccò offered the other cheek but also made a subtle dig at Cavendish.
“Ok. I’ll take it. Not only out on the bike but in a fight as well. I’ll shut up (laughs),” he said.
“Yet I don’t even know him! And he doesn’t know me! How can he say something like that? He’s gone over the top this time…”
Riccò insisted that he is remorseful about his doping and that he has suffered during his ban. But now he is training hard and motivated to comeback.
“At the beginning it was hard. But now I’m starting to feel the buzz of racing again,” he said. “What…what’s he called? Yeah, er Cavendish... [what he] says doesn’t bother me. I’m working hard to be at my best when I comeback. Anyway, you shut people up with your legs, not with your mouth.”
However not everyone is convinced that Riccò is ready to return to racing. In a Twitter message Marco Pinotti said the idea that Riccò and fellow CERA doper Emanuele Sella could be at this year’s Giro ‘made him puke’.
“They’ve had a second chance but they’ve never apologized to the other riders in the peloton, to the team staff that lost their jobs and above all to the fans they betrayed,” Pinotti told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I’m worried that Riccò hasn’t learnt his lesson and will mess up again.”