Blazin' Saddles

Mamma Mia!

Blazin' Saddles

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Well, it's fair to say that the Giro race commissaries have had to make some harder decisions in their time than the one which demoted Giovanni Visconti to third place in stage 17 on Wednesday.

As soon as you take your hands off the bars in a bunch sprint, you've got 'improper sprinting' written all over you. It's like laying a hand on a football referee - you just don't do it. (Ask another hot-head Italian, Paolo Di Canio...)

And Visconti raised his arm not once, but twice - even managing to throw in a typically Italian gesticulative swing of the arm before pipping his victim, Diego Ulissi, to the line.

That neither Ulissi nor Pablo Lastras, who was bumped up to second, fell as a result of Visconti's petulance was perhaps the most remarkable thing about the controversial conclusion to another hot and punishing day in the saddle.

Of course, had Visconti been Mark Cavendish, he would surely have been demoted to last place on the stage - maybe even thrown out of the race - as opposed to a rather lenient, wrist-slapping third.

It would also have been interesting had Ulissi been Lastras; in that case, the commissaries would probably have demoted both the top two in favour of the innocent bystander in the whole affair.

For Ulissi was far from unimpeachable in the matter. Although while his technical shifts of line and apparent impenetrability made Ulissi's approach rather unpredictable (you could say Joycean), the rookie from Cesana clearly believed his older countryman was keeping to the right.

And for this, Visconti must be kicking himself. Why he saw the need to switch sides of the road is as good as anyone's guess - it could have been anything as vain as wanting to finish in the sun and not the shade, such was the total unnecessary nature of his diagonal shift.

The Devil's advocate would have said Visconti was almost inviting, even encouraging, a scrap with his countryman. Judging by his heated words over the finish line, this could well have been the case.

"I shouted at him many times because I was coming twice the speed as him," Visconti moaned to TV crews after the spat. "I would not have managed to get to the line if I didn't raise my hand."

Visconti also had some choice words for his young compatriot: "He's a young rider and a poser. He's to blame for what happened and he had a bad attitude all day long. I'm happy I beat him and if I'm disqualified it will only be for trying to stop myself from falling."

But taking the victory from one Italian and giving to another made it a simple choice for the Giro grande fromaggi.

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