Michele Scarponi was the last survivor of a five-man break which went clear with almost 200 kilometres of the Giro d?Italia?s sixth stage, which finished in Austria.
The 29-year-old Italian was the strongest rider, always forging on, and dropping all but the Belarussian Vasili Kiriyenka with 30 kilometres to go.
But he had a touch of good fortune when Kiriyenka punctured. Instead of easing up, Scarponi rode on and subjected Kiriyenka to a tiring chase. When Kiriyenka did catch up he had no response the next time Scarponi applied the pressure.
For the fourth day in six, a rider who has served a suspension for a doping offence won the day in the Giro, provoking further awkward questions about the sport?s attitudes.
Scarponi of the Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni team served an 18-month ban after admitting he used the services of the Madrid-based blood doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
You may remember Scarponi as Roberto Heras?s loyal domestique in the 2005 Vuelta a Espana. The Italian, then riding for Liberty Seguros, paced the soon-to-be-disgraced Spaniard up the climbs. Soon after the Vuelta, it was announced that Heras had tested positive for EPO.
The following summer, the code name Zapatero featured in Dr Fuentes?s paperwork. Eventually Scarponi admitted he was Zapatero and he was suspended.
Eligible to ride again in June 2008, he signed for Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni. Earlier this year he won Tirreno-Adriatico and, despite the news that his new team-mate Davide Rebellin had tested positive for CERA at the Olympic Games, Serramenti?s invitation to the Giro remained good.
After his stage victory, Scarponi tried to avoid speaking about his involvement in Operacion Puerto and his subsequent ban for doping.
“I?ll simply say that I live in the present. The past is the past. It?s true I?ve had my problems but I?ve come back from them. Now I?m only thinking about my racing with Diquigiovanni. I really like it here, it?s like a family.”
“The only thing I can say is that it was really hard not being able to race. I missed it terribly and trained more than ever to come back.”
A CELEBRATORY CENTENARY GIRO?
Perhaps a rider?s past indiscretions should be ignored when assessing the merit of a victory? It is perfectly legitimate to argue that Scarponi has confessed his wrongs, served his suspension and should be allowed to continue his chosen career.
That would certainly be in the interests of Scarponi, his team and its sponsors. But does that serve the interests of the sport? What example does it set when riders return from their suspension after a matter of months to once again win the prize money and the plaudits?
What does it say about a sport that so many of the riders to have excelled this week have such murky pasts?
It?s more of a roll of dishonour so far. Alessandro Petacchi won two stages, wore the pink jersey and leads the points competition. He was banned for exceeding the level of salbutamol permitted by his therapeutic use exemption.
Danilo Di Luca, Tuesday?s stage winner and the current pink jersey holder, was suspended for three months for consulting with a banned doctor. He was also alleged to have the hormone values of a child during the 2007 Giro, which he won. Now Scarponi, another returning rider, has won a stage.
No doubt some will blame the media for drawing attention to these inconvenient facts. Revel in the racing, they will say. It?s very difficult not to draw the conclusion that the centenary Giro is in danger of being discredited. After all, what’s being celebrated here?
HOW IT HAPPENED
Scarponi and Kiriyenka (Caisse d?Epargne) were part of a five-man move that went clear after around 55 kilometres. They were joined by Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R), Oscar Gatto (ISD) and Kasper Klostergaard (Saxo Bank) and at one stage had a lead in excess of eight minutes.
Behind them Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) attacked the peloton with about 50 kilometres left, but his escape was short-lived.
Kiriyenka and Scarponi dropped the others inside the final 35 kilometres and with around 28 kilometres to go Kiriyenka punctured. Scarponi did not wait, forcing the Belarussian to chase. When he regained contact, he was not a happy man.
Scarponi was clearly the stronger of the two, and with nine kilometres left he pushed on alone. His lead over the peloton, which was being driven by Quick Step and Katusha, was 1-20. Kiriyenka failed to get on terms with the Italian and was caught by the bunch.
At the finish line, Scarponi had half a minute?s advantage, and a glance over his shoulder was presumably to check whether the bunch was closing in, rather than acknowledging his past.
Columbia?s Edvald Boasson Hagen produced a strong sprint to beat Allan Davis of Quick Step to second place. Di Luca was ninth to maintain his lead over Thomas Lovkvist overall.
Lance Armstrong (Astana) lost a bit more time against the overall contenders, coming home 1-15 behind Scarponi. Top British finisher was Chris Froome (Barloworld) in 71st at the same time as Armstrong. Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) finished in 81st, also at 1-15.
Stage six: Bressanone ? Mayrhofen, 248km
1. Michele Scarponi (Italy) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) Columbia-Highroad at 32sec
3. Allan Davis (Australia) Quick Step
4. Filippo Pozzato (Italy) Katusha
5. Matthew Goss (Australia) Saxo Bank
6. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) Silence-Lotto
7. Enrico Gasparotto (Italy) Lampre
8. Michael Rogers (Australia) Columbia-Highroad at 36sec
9. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR Brakes
10. Tadej Valjavec (Slovenia) Ag2r at same time.
19. Ivan Basso (Italy) Liquigas at 36sec
71. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 1-15
73. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 1-15
81. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 1-15
101. Charly Wegelius (GB) Silence-Lotto at 1-39
103. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 2-12
121. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 4-04
143. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 11-26
155. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 15-15
169. Ian Stannard (GB) ISD at 15-15
185. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 15-15
Overall classification after stage six
1. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR Brakes
2. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Columbia-Highroad at 5sec
3. Michael Rogers (Australia) Columbia-Highroad at 36sec
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 43sec
5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 50sec
6. Ivan Basso (Italy) Liquigas at 1-06
7. Carlos Sastre (Spain) Cervelo at 1-16
8. Christopher Horner (USA) Astana at 1-17
9. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas at 1-27
10. David Arroyo (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne at 1-41
25. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 4-13
27. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 4-37
35. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 5-42
47. Charly Wegelius (GB) Silence-Lotto at 9-05
123. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 41-56
124. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 42-43
148. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 53-23
149. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 53-36
161. Ian Stannard (GB) ISD at 56-17
185. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 1-03-21
Danilo Di Luca in the pink leader’s jersey on stage six
|Find the pink jersey competition|
Find the jerseys throughout the Giro and you would win a £400 Parker International voucher.
18 pink jerseys will be hidden around the Cycling Weekly and Parker International websites over the course of the three week race – all you have to do is decipher the clues at the end of the stage reports to find them.
Thursday, May 14. Clue number five:
Find the jersey in Lance’s new Livestrong helmet line
Today’s jersey is on www.cyclingweekly.com
|Giro d’Italia 2009 links|
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
Wiggins eyes top 20 finish overall
Armstrong after Giro stage 5: ‘That was hard’
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
Armstrong working to save Astana team
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
Cavendish tests Giro form at Tour of Romandie
David Millar confirms he’s riding in 2009 Giro
Bennati to take on Cavendish in Giro 2009 sprints
2009 Giro d’Italia to start in Venice
Evans and Silence-Lotto disagree on Giro 2009 ride
Armstrong to ride 2009 Giro
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