Pirazzi and Quintana go it alone

Stefano Pirazzi cried tears of joy after winning his first Grand Tour stage in his home race yesterday, but behind him arguments still raged after Tuesday’s controversial Giro d’Italia stage put Nairo Quintana in the pink jersey of race leader.

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 main group of contenders.

With wet roads creating plenty of risk on the largely flat stage from Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto, the peloton — containing Ireland’s Philip Deignan, 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.

The source of contention was the confusion caused by organisers, who initially appeared to indicate the descent of the Stelvio mountain pass 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 was not placating several teams who were angry at race organisers for the confusion.

A meeting before yesterday’s stage did not settle the issue, even if Quintana looked untroubled as he was decked out in pink from head to toe.

“I don’t know if this is a joke or not, everyone on TV saw what was happening,” Quintana said. “I didn’t get in a car or on a motorbike, I went up the climb on my bike. If they want to take away two minutes because I was holding onto a car, that’d be something else, but I raced just like everyone else.”

But Tinkoff-Saxo rider Michael Rogers took a different view.

“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.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Sam Bennett took fourth on the opening stage of the Bayern Rundfahrt stage race in Germany.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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