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.”

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
No sympathy for Armstrong from Giro boss
Boasson Hagen celebrates his birthday early
Cavendish overjoyed for Boasson Hagen
Armstrong ‘livid’ at dangerous Giro stage
Astana riders wear faded kit in protest over unpaid wages
Armstrong sees Leipheimer in pink
Giro news round-up: 14 May
Wiggins: ‘I can’t keep smashing away on the climbs’
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

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