By Gregor Brown in Tirano
Italian Riccardo Riccò has put in a tremendous performance at the Giro d'Italia to find himself just four seconds from the pink jersey coming into the final stage, but the hotter the race action has gotten, the bigger the fires he has set with his words. Yesterday, he lashed out at CSF Group's Emanuele Sella following the Giro d'Italia stage 19 to Monte Pora for supposedly aiding Contador's chase and denying Riccò the honour of gaining the maglia rosa. The words burned the mountain points leader, but ignited criticism from the press and bloggers across the globe.
Riccò accused Sella and his team-mate Domenico Pozzovivo of working for Alberto Contador's benefit following his attack with less than four kilometres remaining. The attack gapped the Spanish race leader and put the top spot within Riccò's grasp. His accusations, right or wrong, added a punch to the finale of the race and sent journalists grabbing for their pens.
"In the end, Contador always find someone to help... we saw Sella and Pozzovivo [both of CSF Group]. They should have stayed on the wheel and let him pull, but maybe their DS told to them to pull," 24 year-old Riccò, winner of two stages of this year's Giro d'Italia, stated on top of Monte Pora.
Riccò's comments after Friday's stage were as over the top as the Cima Coppi; "People have been saying that Contador is a better climber than me, but as far as I can remember I've dropped him on every summit finish so far. I'll try to attack him again tomorrow, and I hope that Panaria [sic] don't pull behind me this time..."
He continued his juicy rant Saturday morning in Rovetta, before the last big mountain stage. "People who understand cycling can work out what happened," Riccò spat out. "People who defended Sella are ignorant." Riccò tried to walk away, but was asked if he would change the words he said if had the opportunity; he responded, "even worse."
Sella was not having any of it and was forced to respond. "I was frustrated by the words that he said, and, like everyone, I am able to look at the television and see that I did nothing wrong," 27 year-old Sella noted. "If fact, thanks to my attacks Alberto was in difficulties."
Both riders are gifted athletes with multiple Giro d'Italia stage wins; Riccò has one from last year and two this year, whereas Sella's first came back in 2004 and three arrived this year. However, it has been their words more than their wins that have given journalists such exiting news.
How will the third-year professional Riccò mature? Will the flame get hotter or will it fizzle out? Sella had the last word: "He is younger than me and he is defiantly gifted. However, if he makes these statements... he is a great athlete but small man."