Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) will be formally recognised as the winner of the 2011 Giro d’Italia when he is presented with the maglia rosa by race director Michele Acquarone in Herning on Thursday, but the Italian said that the fact that the ceremony is so belated will do nothing to dampen his motivation for this year’s race.
Scarponi stood on the second step of the podium in Milan last June, but he inherits the pink jersey and Trofeo Senza Fine after Alberto Contador was stripped of his title by a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in February of this year. The Spaniard raced last year’s Giro while waiting to hear if he would face sanction for his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.
“It will be a welcome recognition, a reward for the fine Giro d’Italia I rode last year, but I would like to feel the emotion of conquering the maglia rosa on the road. This will be the real motivation of the 2012 Giro for me,” Scarponi said.
Twelve months ago, Scarponi approached the Giro on a high after a string of notable displays throughout the spring, including at Milan-San Remo, the Volta a Catalunya and the Giro del Trentino. This time around, however, his build-up to May has been rather more low-key.
Scarponi is still without a win in 2012, and he coughed up over twelve minutes on each of the mountain stages at the Giro del Trentino, over the Punta Veleno to Brenzone and on the Passo Pordoi. 8th place at the following Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège allayed lingering concerns about his condition, however, and he is upbeat about his chances at the Giro.
“I started the season with the intention of reaching top condition later in comparison to last year, so I wasn’t as sharp as I was in 2011 in races like Tirreno-Adriatico,” Scarponi said. “Still, I was hoping that I’d be a bit more advanced in the month of April, I won’t hide that, but that nice performance at Liège-Bastogne- Liège has given me a lot of conviction.
“It’s never easy to be at the front of the race at La Doyenne. You can only do that if your legs are good, so I can say that I took a important sign about my condition from the Belgian race.”
Scarponi publicly toyed with the idea of lining up at the Tour de France earlier in the year, before formally throwing his hat into the ring for the Giro in mid April. His announcement came just days after Damiano Cunego intimated to Cyclingnews that he, too, would forsake the Tour for the Giro, but Scarponi is adamant that the two leaders can co-exist in the same team. Cunego underlined his form with victory on the opening road stage in Trentino.
“I saw Damiano ride very well in the last races, so he will certainly be an important element of the team,” said Scarponi. “I welcome the presence of a quality athlete like Cunego at my side. With the right collaboration and with clear objectives, we can fight united together to be protagonists.”
While the redoubtable final week of the Giro is the focus of much of the pre-race anticipation, Scarponi was reluctant to nominate a key stage and instead pointed to the old truism that a three-week race must be approached one day at a time.
“Of course, I’ve analysed the map and the details of the Giro, but I prefer to concentrate on one thing at a time, without looking too far ahead,” he said. “It’s for this reason that for now my attention is focused on the Danish stages. It’s a start not to be taken lightly, given that the wind could play some nasty tricks on us.”