Giro d'Italia - Ulissi wins stage 17 amid controversy
Wed, 25 May 16:09:00 2011
Italian youngster Diego Ulissi was awarded victory in stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia after compatriot Giovanni Visconti was relegated to third place for irregular sprinting.
Farnese Vini all-rounder Visconti reacted angrily after apparently being boxed in on the closing straight of the 230-kilometre stage from Feltre to Tirano, pushing his rival from Lampre twice and gesticulating to his compatriot before crossing the line in first position.
Ulissi finished second and Spaniard Pablo Lastras (Movistar) took third, although race commissaires quickly decided to demote Visconti to third place for dangerous sprinting, gifting the win to the 21-year-old Ulissi.
The three riders were all part of a 16-man group which broke clear of the peloton 55km into the undulating stage in northern Italy.
Coming into the closing straight, all three riders - along with Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto) - were competing for victory after building up a small lead over the remaining escapees.
Ulissi opened up the sprint and Visconti quickly took his wheel on the right hand side of the road. But then Italian national champion Visconti swung across the road, nipping in front of Lastras and behind Ulissi, to take a different line by the crash barriers on the left.
Believing his fellow Italian to be still riding to his right, Ulissi veered to the left making it very hard for Visconti to continue his drive to the line.
In response, the Farnese Vini rider twice pushed Ulissi with his right hand before swinging an arm in disgust and then crossing the line in pole position. Losing balance, Ulissi was forced to swing to his right and almost collided with Lastras before coming home to take second.
An irate Visconti, talking to reporters after the finish, claimed he had shouted at his countryman to warn him of his line and had acted the way he had through necessity. He also claimed Ulissi had ridden all day with a "bad attitude".
"I was coming twice the speed as him and I would not have managed to get to the line if I didn't do what I did," the 28-year-old said. "He's a young rider and he had a bad attitude all day long. I'm happy I beat him but I am sorry because these things should not happen on the Giro."
Moments later, race commissaires announced that Ulissi was to be granted the win and Lastras second-place after Visconti was disqualified to third.
It was a controversial end to another hot and long day in the saddle which saw maglia rosa Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank SunGard) preserve his 4:48 minute lead over Italian Michele Scarponi (Lampre) in the overall standings.
The breakaway - which also included riders such as Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Slipstream) and Kanstantsin Siutsou (HTC-Highroad) - built up a maximum lead of around eight minutes before the second category Passo del Tonale.
With one of their men - Spaniard Jesus Hernandez - in the break, the Saxo Bank team of Contador had little interest in chasing down the leaders. Instead duties were left to the Liquigas team of third-placed Vincenzo Nibali, who was touted prior to the stage as a possible attacker on the final descent to the finish.
Liquigas upped the tempo, but by the start of the final climb - the third category ascent to Aprica - it was clear that the break would stick. Multiple attacks ensued, but nothing definitive, meaning the streamlined group started the 15km descent to the finish as one.
A big dig by Lastras, 5km from the finish, brought about the decisive split in the group, teeing things up for a mouth-watering sprint finale which was somewhat soured by the histrionics of Visconti.
The Giro continues on Thursday with the 151km stage 18 from Morbegno to San Pellegrino Terme.
Ulissi wins amid controversy