STEFANO Pirazzi cried tears of joy after winning his first-ever Grand Tour stage in his home race but, behind him, arguments still raged after Tuesday’s controversial Giro d’Italia stage which put Nairo Quintana in the pink jersey.
The Bardiani rider, who won the mountains classification last year, sprinted clear a kilometre from home to beat Tim Wellens, Jay McCarthy, Thomas De Gendt and Matteo Montaguti to the line, with the five riders leading home a large breakaway who had built up a huge advantage over the group containing current maglia rosa wearer Quintana.
With wet roads creating plenty of risk on the largely flat stage from Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto, the peloton were content to roll home a little over 15 and a half minutes behind the breakaway, but the calmness of the racing belied the mood of several teams after the events of Tuesday’s stage 16 over the famed Stelvio pass, which took place in terrible weather.
The source of contention was the confusion caused by organisers, who initially appeared to indicate the descent of the mountain would be neutralised on safety grounds, only for Quintana to attack on his way to snatching the pink jersey from fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran, while opening up a lead of one minute and 41 seconds in the general classification.
Quintana was not alone in attacking on the descent, and his form on the final climb suggested he would have taken pink regardless, but that did not placate several teams who were angry at race organisers for the confusion. A meeting before yesterday’s stage did not settle the row, even if Quintana looked untroubled as he was decked out in pink from head to toe.
Tinkoff-Saxo rider Michael Rogers said before the stage: “This highlights the need for clear rules as regards extreme weather because it’s not the first time it’s happened. You can understand the teams’ anger.
“A lot of teams have invested millions of euros to come to this race and when time is taken away like that you understand everyone’s frustration.” By contrast, yesterday’s stage was largely incident free.
A 25-strong group went up the road early on and, with no oevrall contenders among them, the peloton let them go. The group began to fracture with 30km to go as a series of attacks were launched, but it was not until the final few bends that the group of five broke free at the front.
Pirazzi, recognising his limitations as a sprinter, went off the front with a kilometre to go and hung on down the final stretch for the Bardiani team’s third stage win of the Giro.
“I knew that between the first five it would be difficult to arrive together and I knew that I had no chance against them,” the 27-year-old said.
“Of course we’re all young guys at Bardiani and we’ve done well so far. We’re all good riders and I think that we can be proud of ourselves.”