After putting his stamp of dominance on Giro d'Italia stage two to Agrigento, Italy's Riccardo Riccò fell victim to the numerous crashes in Monday's stage three to Milazzo. However, the 24 year-old leader of Saunier Duval-Scott will continue racing Tuesday in stage four with a dislocated finger and a bruised morale.
The last time "The Cobra" took a spill on Italian soil was in the Tirreno-Adriatico and it proved to be disastrous. The crash on March 14 put paid to his Milano-Sanremo participation and lessened his impact on the Ardennes Classics. This time, with 72 kilometres remaining in stage three on the island of Sicilia, Riccò pushed on with his ego in check.
One day before, the rider from Formigine (Modena) had waved his arms in the air as if saying "Look at me, I have proved you wrong" to all the Riccò naysayers. "It is not important to have friends in cycling," he stated to the press after his win. "You have to fight with the others, the best have to win. Only your team-mates are your friends in the bunch. I have no friends during the race."
The next day he was in the dirt. "I did not see the crash, I know that I only have ended with my ass on the ground yet again," said Riccò to La Gazzetta dello Sport following the stage. Riccò's right index finger was cut deeply from what he claimed to be a wheel's spoke.
"I thought that it was over," he said. "I started to cry because I did not want to lose the Giro like this. It is absurd in a stage race like this. There are curves, holes, ruts and train crossings. With a few drops of rain the roads become like ice. It was not only me, everyone was complaining. There are anti-doping controls but the course is not controlled."
Riccò pictured himself as his idol Marco Pantani as he continued despite the pain. "I would have continued even if the finger was broken," said the young rider of Saunier Duval. "I thought my bad luck was over; instead it is better to be quiet. I console myself with the fact that I have already won the stage to Agrigento – and there will be others – first I have to get back on the pedals and attack. I have learned that I have to be like my friend Pantani, who would race at the back of the group and go ahead only when there was a moment to attack."
He concluded, "The Giro is not over, but what anger."