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By Fabio
Date: 5/28/2002

After Stefano Garzelli and Gilberto Simoni, the Tour of Italy lost one more big favorite: this evening the Giro judges took the decision to eject Fassa Bortolo's Francesco Casagrande from the race. A decision based on the Article 31 of the Giro rules, relative to "unsportmanslike behaviour."

What happened? Simply that during Tuesday's predominantly flat stage, Casagrande boxed Colombia's John Freddy Garcia (Colombia-Selle Italia) during a (3rd category!!) KOM Sprint and knocked the South American down.

As a consequence of the crash caused by the Italian (which wasn't shot by any "official" camera) the Colombian Road Champion was forced out of competition, suffering face injuries which required several stitches, and the man was also taken to hospital.

Despite claims by Casagrande, who also broke his rear wheel in the "accident," and had to replace it, that he didn't hit the Colombian on purpose, and messsages from bystanders confirming his version (actually the man is not exactly famous for unsportsmanlike behaviour at all), race officials opted for disqualifying the Tuscan climber, and one of the main overall contenders, just on the eve of the Giro's two most important stages, where, according to what he said before knowing of the sanction, he was ready to launch his attacks to the other favorites (Evans, Frigo, Hamilton), none of which is a pure climber.

Another hard blow to Fassa-Bortolo, after the team in white and blue lost Wladmir Belli in similar circumstances one year ago, when Belli was ejected by the Giro after he punched a spectator who was abusing him.

Fassa's Sporting Director Giancarlo Ferretti said he thinks the punishment was excessive, while the team's patron even threatened to withdraw his team from the race, but seems that he subsequently changed his mind, and the remaining Fassa riders (with Belli as new leader) will take the start tomorrow morning.

Casagrande's behaviour was criticised also by Mario Cipollini who, talking to the press after his stage victory, said "I saw the facts, and didn't appreciate Casagrande as he misbehaved towards a boy that was just doing his job twelve thousand kilometres far from his home, trying to make his living on the bike by doing what his Team director told him to do."

As for the "Fantasy Giro" obviously Casagrande will keep each point he has got so far, including the ones relative to today's stage.

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