The ninth stage of the 2009 Giro d’Italia in the centre of Milan should have celebrated the first edition of the race starting in the city exactly a hundred years ago. Instead, due to errors by both the riders and the race organisers, the stage almost became a farce.

Mark Cavendish?s victory in the final sprint was the only good moment of the day, with both riders and organisers heading off for the first rest day tomorrow blaming each other.

The 190 riders in the Giro were already angry after the tricky finishes in Mayrhofen and Chiavenna in the last few days and Pedro Horrillo?s crash on Saturday heightened their fears. When they saw the twisting circuit in Milan, saw the park cars on the course, the lack of barriers and people crossing the road, the cobbled corners and then tram tracks running parallel to the road, it was the final straw.

Race organisers clearly had not done enough to guarantee the riders’ safety and some say admitted it by agreeing to neutralise the stage and not take times for the overall standing.

That seemed enough to appease the riders in the early laps but then as the riders talked and rode the course several times, their anger grew. Lance Armstrong talked to pink jersey Danilo Di Luca, who spoke to other team leader such as Ivan Basso as the average speed fell below 33km/h.

Just after halfway through the 165km stage the bunch stopped on the finish line and Di Luca explained the reasons for their go slow. “We’re sorry for the public but the circuit isn’t safe. We don’t want to risk anything. We hope the fans understand,? he said before the bunch set off again.

The riders eventually upped the speed and those who wanted to sprint, took some high-speed risks and fought it out. Those who didn?t want to risk their necks, sat up and rode in at their own pace. Some at just a few seconds, others, including Armstrong, at several minutes.

Some of the Italian media described the stage as a joke, most criticised the riders for their disorganised, half-cocked protest. The only winner was Mark Cavendish and his Columbia team mates but even their celebrations were soured.

?After the first lap, even Lance said this circuit shouldn?t be raced on,? Filippo Pozzato told Italian television.

?In the end the protest turned into a big mess. Decisions like that shouldn?t be made during the race but before. Often when you make decisions during the race you make mistakes.?

“We saw in the first lap that the course wasn’t safe,” Di Luca said.

“There were cars parked in the middle of the road, traffic islands and tram lines. We asked the organizers to annul the times and we’re happy that they granted our request.”

NO PITY FROM ZOMEGNAN

Race director Angelo Zomegnan is know for showing little pity whenever riders complain and was fuming that they had ruined the centenary celebrations.

?When a race starts it has to finish. People stop when they don?t know where they?re going. They?ve betrayed the fans,? he said.

?We agreed to neutralise the times to avoid more adrenaline in the sprint. It was a good decision, especially after what happened yesterday, where I was the first to cancel all the celebrations at the finish in Bergamo after Horrillo?s crash.

?If this circuit is dangerous then the Amstel Gold Race and Ghent-Wevelgem should be cancelled too.?

Zomegnan threatened to take action against the riders but no sanctions were confirmed after the stage. Instead he seemed to have a go at Lance Armstrong, who was amongst the ringleaders of the protest.

?This circuit required explosive bursts. It required riders to get their butts up off the seats of their bikes, and some riders who are not so young anymore apparently don?t feel like doing that,? Zomegnan said on Italian television.

?It seems that as some riders get older, their legs became shorter and their tongues longer.?

Armstrong signed autographs after the stage but did not talk about the protests or his now fragile relationship with the man who convinced him to ride the Giro. He said on Twitter: ?Unfortunately not the best day for the fans OR the riders. We (the peloton) collectively took the decision to neutralize most of the race due to circuit. Tram tracks running same direction as the course, parked cars on the roads, etc. Anyhow, it lit up at the end.?

?Cavendish got another stage win. Good for him, great kid. Rest day tomorrow then the ‘real’ Giro starts…?

Hopefully the real Giro will be on the road, with the rider?s safety the biggest priority.


Giro d’Italia 2009 links

Stage reports

Stage nine: Cavendish blitzes rivals to win in Milan

Stage eight: Siutsou makes it two in a row for Columbia-Highroad

Stage seven: Boasson Hagen takes treacherous stage

Stage six: Scarponi wins longest stage with big break

Stage five: Menchov wins mountain battle as Di Luca grabs the pink jersey

Stage four: Di Luca denies Soler on the line; Lovkvist takes pink jersey

Stage three: Cavendish loses pink jersey after being caught behind late crash

Stage two: Petacchi denies Cavendish the stage win

Stage one: Cavendish in pink as Columbia prove their point to Garmin

Photo galleries

Stage eight photo gallery

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

Desktop wallpaper photos

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Cavendish cool before Milan sprint

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Cavendish overjoyed for Boasson Hagen

Armstrong ‘livid’ at dangerous Giro stage

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Giro news round-up: 14 May

Wiggins: ‘I can’t keep smashing away on the climbs’

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Cavendish looking for Giro revenge

Armstrong happy with stage four performance

Lovkvist will fight to keep Giro lead

Giro could be last race for Armstrong’s team

Vande Velde crashes out of Giro

Petacchi claims he didn’t know of Cavendish crash

Cavendish struggles to find consolation in pink jersey

Petacchi: I’ve been working out how to beat Cav

I’m wearing pink on behalf of the team, says Cavendish

Wiggins ready to win Giro team time trial

Friday, May 8: Giro news round-up

Cavendish out to topple Garmin in Giro team time trial

Team time trial start times

Cycling Weekly’s Giro d’Italia top ten prediction

Brits in Venice for Giro presentation

Armstrong overshadows overall favourites at Giro presentation

Armstrong confident of finding new sponsor for Astana

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Wiggins in top form for Giro

Garmin Slipstream kitted out for Giro opener

Dan Lloyd gets late Giro call-up

Armstrong’s special Giro bikes unveiled

Daniel Lloyd overlooked for Giro ride

Cummings and Thomas not selected for Giro d’Italia

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David Millar confirms he’s riding in 2009 Giro

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2009 Giro d’Italia to start in Venice

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Tuttosport reveals 2009 Giro d’Italia route

Dolce & Gabbana design new Giro jersey

2009 Giro d’Italia guide and features

Find the pink jersey competition

Giro d’Italia 2009: The Big Preview

British riders to have led the grand tours

CW’s Giro top ten prediction

Brits in the Giro 2009

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

CW Classic: the 1987 Giro d’Italia


2008 Giro d’Italia archive

Giro d’Italia 2008 coverage index – race reports, photos, results

From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia

Giro 2008: The final word on this year’s race

Brits at the 2008 Giro: photo special

Five days to go, what’s in store?

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 27)

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)

Giro d’Italia 2008 preview

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