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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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The sweetness of success: Ventoso crosses the winning line
Spanish sprinter takes opening win for Movistar in 2012 Giro
Last time Fran Ventoso (Movistar) won a stage of the Giro back in 2011, an uphill sprint at Fiuggi, he says he had the finish 'marked down with a cross in the route book.' But today, though, he was almost certainly not so sure of his chances.
"I was lucky, it was risky but I took the right risks to win," the 30-year-old said afterwards,
"I came here to win a stage, but our team's big goal is the gc with Beñat Intxausti. He's just won the Tour of Asturias, so he's got good form. Now I'm going to work for him."
Asked about the fact that there have been three crashes in four bunch sprints and whether it made sense to have a corner so close to the finish after a fast downhill, Ventoso said, "organisers can't always have five kilometre straightaways for a bunch sprint stage. Today it was the riders who made a mistake."
"I got over that climb, though and raced to the finish by myself, unsupported. I'd read the route book, I knew what was coming up at that corner, i wasn't very well positioned."
"But it seems like some people weren't braking, and didn't seem scared. I don't know why. It seemed like they hadn't looked at the route book."
As for why so many crashes have happened in the Giro this year Ventoso said "it's a combination of things." amongst them that "We all want to win, there's the pressure to win."
Although he will now spend time working for Intxausti, his longer term goals include the Olympic Games. A ride at the Tour de France, where a stage win would mean he has victories in all three Grand Tours, is not out of the question.
To describe Ventoso's career as chequered is no exaggeration. When he turned pro in 2004 for the now defunct Saunier Duval after racing in their junior and amateur teams, after placing tenth in the GP Doha one-day race, he won on the opening day of his first ever stage race, in the Tour of Qatar. Two years later, he surprised the favourites again with a bunch sprint victory in stage three of the 2006 Vuelta, in Almendralejo in Spain's far west, against the far more experienced Thor Hushovd and Stuart O'Grady.
After three victories in Castille and Leon as well as a fourth place in Ghent-Wevelgem in 2007, reported financial differences with Saunier Duval meant he opted not to sign for them and instead he moved to the smaller Andalucia squad in 2008. He then received a nine-month suspension after testing positive in an out-of-competition test for furosemide, a diuretic that can act as a masking agent.
His suspension completed but with no other offers on the table apart from the small-scale Carmiooro squad for 2009, he signed with the Italian team. Wins in the GP Beghelli and Paris-Correze in 2009, and Paris-Brussels in 2010 convinced Movistar to give him a chance in 2011, and he repaid the leading Spanish squad's faith in him with a Giro victory in Fiuggi, the same town where two other top Spanish riders, Juan Fernandez and Lale Cubino, had won in 1980 and 1994. A year later, another Giro win for Movistar is now in his saddlebag, too.