By Jean-François Quénet in Gent
When the dominoes fell in the finale in Gent, one rider had to be the unfortunate tile to fall down first. That dubious honour went to Liquigas' Manuel Quinziato, who has had his ups and downs in this year's Tour. In London, he was treated to a display by some tifosi, who showed up with a huge banner festooned with the tricolore of the Italian flag and the saying,: "God save the Queenziato."
It could have been some of his many female fans, and with their encouragement, the handsome 27 year-old scored the best time for Italy at the prologue when clocked in at eighth place. The former European time trial champion is still pretty strong against the clock, even though he now rides at the service of Filippo Pozzato.
Becoming the obstacle that brought down a large portion of the peloton wasn't in his plans for stage two, and he thought he was playing it safe up front. "I was racing in the first positions of the bunch," he explained afterwards. "This is where it's usually relatively secure compared to the back. A Milram rider (Erik Zabel, ed.) looked behind him in search of his team-mates. His foot went off the pedal and I touched him. No way that I wouldn't crash at this speed. It was inevitable."
Surprisingly, Quinziato wasn't badly hurt. He was left with a bit of pain in his left knee, but nothing too bad. "I'm happy that nothing's broken because it was a shock when 50 riders crashed on my back," he said. But he was quite philosophical about the fall. "The Tour de France is like that. It's the most stressful bike race. GC riders and sprinters want to ride in the front for different reasons and it makes the race extremely nervous. It creates a lot of risks. But today's finale was less dangerous than yesterday's. Crashes usually happen when we don't expect it." God has really saved Quinziato from a major accident.