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Can the Giro d'Italia help save Italian cycling?

The Director of the Giro d'Italia, Angelo Zomegnan hopes three weeks of exciting racing can help Italian cycling recover from a long series of doping scandals that have rocked the Giro in recent years and decapitated the list of former winners.

Riders of the calibre of Ivan Basso, Danilo Di Luca and Riccardo Riccò have all had problems and undermined the credibility of the Giro, while the announcement of Franco Pellizotti's recent biological passport problems last week has caused further damage to the appeal of cycling in Italy and around the world.

Zomegnan is convinced that things are gradually improving and hopes that a possible three-way battle for overall victory between Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre will inspire three weeks of thrilling racing.

"It's a pity about what has happened to cycling in Italy but if we want to clean it up, there's a price to pay. If the price is high, we can perhaps hope the cleaning will go deeper," Zomegnan told Cyclingnews, just hours before the start of the 2010 race in Amsterdam.

"Unfortunately, we're almost getting used things like this. I want to try and see the glass half full, rather than half empty. If there's something wrong with Pellizotti's biological passport, the UCI (International Cycling Union) have made the right decision to reveal it before the Giro d'Italia and not during the race, as I asked them to do."

"I'm not talking specifically about Pellizotti but I'm sure that for every cheat that is caught and stopped riding the Giro, another hundred riders benefit from that."

Doing its bit

Zomegnan insists the race organiser RCS Sport is doing its bit to tackle doping and revealed that the number of controls and anti-doping inspectors on the race will be higher than ever before.

"This year there are more anti-doping tests planned for the Giro than have ever been done on a Grand Tour. There will be 520, with two thirds of them blood tests," he told Cyclingnews.

"We can also reveal today that there is an extra, third anti-doping inspector on the race, who will specifically carry out tests in the evening after stages to go after riders who think they can get away with micro-dosing. We're doing as much as we can to fight doping."

A Giro for the climbers

Zomegnan is known for creating highly original and unpredictable race routes that test the riders to their limits. He admits this year's race, with a terrible final week in the mountains, suits the climbers. It is their race to lose.

"This year's route is very tough. Not only for the mountain stages but for the little sections and finishes that we hope will make some great racing. I'm talking about the technical time trial course in Amsterdam, the tension there will be on the first road stage to Utrecht and the crosswinds that will blow in the finale of stage three to Middleburg.

"The team time trial back in Italy will be special, then there's the history linked to the stage that starts in Novi Ligure, the home town of [Fausto] Coppi and [Constante] Girardengo. There's the dirt roads in the Chianti hills to Montalcino and then the first mountain finish to Terminillo. And that's only the first eight days. It should be a spectacular Giro."

"I think this is a climber's Giro. There aren't many flat time trials, but there's a mountain time trial. If the climber's lose out, it's there fault, it's difficult to see how a time trialist can take the maglia rosa and then hang onto."

Zomegnan also revealed his three favourites and two outsiders for overall victory.

"I don’t like to name a single favourite, that's not fair. But I think there are five riders who people should watch carefully and judge the whole race based on their performances. The five are, in no particular order: Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam), Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), meaning that after a long time a World Champion could again win a Major Tour, which is great.

"I'm not sure about the other two but I think Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Linus Gerdemann (Milram) could also be contenders. I also think they show the international depth of the race. It's a pity that Gerald Ciolek is not riding because I think the Giro d'Italia can help German cycling recover, as I hope it will help Italian cycling recover."

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