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88th Giro d'Italia - Stage 15 Interviews
By Fabio
Date: 5/23/2005
88th Giro d'Italia - Stage 15 Interviews

As much as their leader was having a hard time winning stages the way he got us accustomed to, they were being criticized all the time. One day as they left him in the wind too early, another day as their leadout wagons "derailed" after mistaking a turn, another day again for not preventing Robbie McEwen from catching their man's wheel (as if it was an easy task ...). But today they staged the perfect leadout, taking their man to the best position for a fantastic victory. And decided to take some revenge on their critics. To start from the most "prestigious" of them all: Mario Cipollini. The former "Lion King" of sprints, now working as a commentator for Gazzetta dello Sport, was quite critical of their tactics and performances over the past few days. But today Marco Velo, Alberto Ongarato and the Fassa Bortolo leadout crew sent him a strong reply, through their legs, but also their voices, in post-stage interviews. Usually silent or not very outspoken, Petacchi's leadout men were very outspoken today, clearly showing that they had enough of the criticisms (in some cases excessive) they received.

It was Marco Velo that started the fire: "We have been great today. It was a showdown. Even if we lost Fabio Sacchi, who punctured in the last kilometres, we managed to sort things out. That's a lesson for Cipollini too. He said some (unpleasant) things on us ... but he would just have been glad to have leadout men like these".

Alberto Ongarato was a bit less direct, but basically echoed his teammate's words: "Cipollini has been critical of us since the first stages. And so were others, we have been often criticized during this Giro. Sometimes critics had a point, sometimes not. But their words are not the point; the point is that Petacchi is certainly the best sprinter, but also has a very strong team on his side. A team that did very well today, even without a guy like Fabio Sacchi".

After focussing on the Alejet's domestiques (with them so unusually outspoken today, we thought that starting with their words was a must), here's Alessandro Petacchi, who couldn't escape a question about the same, controversial argument anyway. And strongly sided with his teammates: "The Fassa leadout men have always done fine. If we failed sometimes, it might have been more because of my own mistakes rather than theirs. It's true that sometimes I wasn't perfectly set up for the sprint, but I won more than once in similar circumstances in the past. So had I won those sprints too, no such polemics would have been started. My teammates have been great today too: we were racing on slippery roads, and lost a fundamental leadoutman in Fabio Sacchi, as he had a flat no more than 200m after he moved to the front. I thought we were going to have a hard time, but then came Zanini, who was leading out Bettini, and we were good at benefitting from his work too. Later on I finished off the job. Yes, things went well today".

The Sprinter Gentleman scored his third win so far in this Giro, and now may well have a new target: the Ciclamino Jersey of the points' classification leader, which he might be wearing in Milan for the second time running: "I had the intention of contesting the Intergiro sprint today, but saw that (Bettini and his teammate) were taking too many risks on the penultimate turn before the sprint; I pulled the brake instead, 'cause a second place there wasn't worth the risk. I decided to go for the stage victory instead. I'll be given more opportunities (to pick up points for the cyclamen jersey) in the next stages, the leg into Varazze included. Provided I can do well on the hills coming earlier in the stage".

Paolo Savoldelli started his post-race interviews with comments on the decision to shorten today's leg. Which he welcomed: "Had the stage begun at Livigno, we would have taken so many useless risks. The weather was bad and cold, and the roads wet. So that moving the start to Tirano was a good thing. And so was neutralizing the time as we hit the circuit: we overall contenders stepped aside and let sprinters do their job. That was a good way to limit risks". He continued with words on the upcoming stages, that might surprise anyone, as despite his current position on the GC The Falcon apparently doesn't think he's to man to beat: "It will be tough all the time the next days. I think Di Luca and Simoni are my most dangerous rivals, also because of their past results, but we'd better watch out also for Garate - he finished fourth in the 2002 Giro, which I won - and Honchar, who is a talented TTist. I'm in a good condition, and if I'm here with the jersey on my shoulders it's because I'm doing well, but I don't think I'm the main favorite to win the overall. The gaps are small, and there's many riders on the same level, with so many difficult stages remaining. We shall see what's going to happen".

Ivan Basso got lots of applause from the crowd. Arguably both because the tifosi appreciated his gritty attitude, and the race finished at Lissone, not far from Ivan's Varese province, so that many of his biggest fans were at the line. That must be one of the reasons he was smiling in front of the RAI cameras after the stage , though there could be another, more significant reason: "Today's stage was easy. With the route shortened, and the start moved to Tirano, it was nothing more than a pancake-flat ride. And that was very good for me. I'm much better now, and tomorrow's rest day could make things even better. I think that if I'm fine Wednesday, I will go on. I'd like to do something good on the week-end". He also had to answer some unpleasant questions concerning rumors (mostly coming from an Italian sport paper) stating that the problems he had over the week-end were the "side effect" of an omelette the man ate - along with other CSC riders and staff members - all of whom reportedly had probs later, though not to Basso's extent: "I heard such rumors indeed. Maybe it was because of something I eat, but I tend to disagree: I didn't eat any particular, unsual things, and I'm very careful about what I eat and drink Sometimes it's just like things happen to you, and you just don't know why ...".

Later on it was the turn of his manager Bjarne Riis to speak, and deny the "omelette" rumors: "I can't tell you what exactly happened (to Basso). He had those probs, and when in the saddle he couldn't eat for the whole stage both Saturday and Sunday. You can't recover energies in such a situation. I heard of the omelette story, but also know that he's always very careful about what he eats and drinks. People who know him well know how much of a professional he is". And again, "He had a good day today, didn't have any problems during the stage. Will he continue and be a protagonist in the next days? I don't know, we'll see how things pan out tomorrow. We'll stay beside him, but are not going to take any unnecessary risks. Should remaining in the race be detrimental to Ivan, we'd just stop him".

Paolo Bettini was also all smiles at the end of the stage: And how could he be wrong? He had to yield the cyclamen jersey to Di Luca after Sunday's leg, but got it back immediately. And even made the top three in the stage classification: "I tried to do something good today, both at Intergiro and the final sprint. I must thank Zanini, he was very motivated, and got me in the best position for the sprint, on the right wheels. I couldn't pass them, but that was no surprise to me: they (Petacchi and Zanini) are better sprinters. I racked up precious points for my cyclamen jersey bid however, so I am very happy. That jersey means a lot to me now, and I'm gonna try and defend it until Sunday. But I'm aware that I have a strong opponent in Danilo Di Luca, that's why I have to contest all sprints, whenever I can".

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