Roche: “I’ve been hugely impressed by Taylor Phinney”

The 2012 Giro d'Italia has been a very exciting race so far, which was perhaps to be expected as it’s such an open race this year. There has been an amazing amount of crashes, which is always understandable at the start of a Grand Tour when all the riders are quite nervous. I think the nerves increase when major tours start abroad, because the surroundings are a unfamiliar and the crowds and sense of expectation are much bigger than you would normally see if the race was starting in Italy.

Denmark certainly gave the race a great send-off. Everyone was clearly determined to savour the experience of having the Giro there for the first time and the race organisers wanted to do all they could to show off the race. It was a great way of paying tribute to guys like Bjarne Riis and Thor Hushovd, as well as some of the past greats of Scandinavian racing such as Gosta Pettersson and Rolf Sørsensen.

I think it’s important that races like the Tour de France and the Giro do share themselves around, that they go to other countries. Events have to become global in the modern cycling world to reflect the globalisation of the sport. The purists might not be happy with the Giro starting in Denmark or the Tour starting in Belgium, but I think that is the way that it has to be in order to further the reach and popularity of the sport.

I was very pleased to see Taylor Phinney win the prologue. I rode with his dad, Davis. In fact, he took a stage in the 1987 Tour that I went on to win. It’s amazed me how much class and talent Taylor has. He speaks very well about the sport as well, and it’s clear that he’s very focused and has thought a lot about what he wants to achieve. Although it was disappointing to see him crash on stage three, it was good to see him getting on with the job of defending maglia rosa. Incidents like that are all part of cycling and he brushed himself off and got on with the job. He seems very mature for his age, and I’ve hugely impressed with how he’s conducted himself.

I’ve still not seen the incident involving Roberto Ferrari in the bunch sprint on stage three, but from what I’ve read he made a very sudden and significant move across the road, and caused real mayhem by doing that. I know that they punished him by relegating him to last place on the stage, but I honestly think that in the wake of an incident like that there is a case for a much harsher punishment.

If someone moves off their line a bit in a sprint, I think it’s OK. You can see that they’ve made a bit of mistake. But if a guy goes off his line as much as Ferrari did I think there should be a tougher sanction – he should have been thrown off the race. Yes, we can all get a bit carried away in the final few hundred metres and can go a metre or two off our line, but he went way off it. I know he was sorry about what he did, but he could have put some of the guys on the plane home before the race had really got going. Cavendish and Phinney’s Giro could have been over, and Phinney is certainly still paying the price for the crash today.

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In 1987, Stephen Roche won the Giro d'Italia on his way to a famous Triple Crown. Later that year he added the Tour de France and the Road World Championships in what one of the most dominant seasons of the last 30 years. The Irishman always says things how he sees them and is notoriously outspoken on the sport's biggest issues. The Giro d'Italia is a race very close to his heart, and here he shares his thoughts on the 2012 renewal.