Giro Notebook, Stage 17: Rodriguez walks out of press conference; Pinotti eyeing Milan TT

In our daily Giro roundup, the maglia rosa walks out on press conference, Pinotti wants the Milan TT win, Phinney and others fined in the Dolomites

CORTINA d’AMPEZZO, Italy (VN) – Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) walked out of a post-stage press conference in tears after being asked about the one-year anniversary of the death of Xavier Tondo.

Rodríguez was one of Tondo’s closest friends and he dedicated his victory to Tondo, who died in a horrific accident in a parking garage in Spain one year ago. Rodríguez wore a black armband in honor of Tondo, but couldn’t control his emotions when journalists queried him about the gesture.

“I will remember him for the rest of my life, not just today. I do not like to talk about it in public because I prefer to remember him privately,” Rodríguez said, his voice quivering. “I knew him since he was a kid. Other people talk about him without really even knowing him. I do not like to speak about it. It’s something I keep inside my heart.”

Moments after speaking, Rodríguez teared up and quickly walked out of the press conference.

A Katusha press officer returned a few moments later to apologize, with the expectation that the Giro’s overall leader would return. Rodríguez did return, only to fetch his Blackberry, and quickly left again without further comment.

Before the emotions overtook him, Rodríguez said he was satisfied with his performance in Wednesday’s challenging stage.

“I didn’t win the stage to show I am strong,” he said. “I did well throughout the stage. Perhaps Basso was stronger and he deserves a special recognition of how he rode today. I felt protected throughout the stage by my teammates.”

Pinotti already eyeing Milan

Marco Pinotti (BMC Racing) is hoping to survive the coming climbing stages to challenge for the final-day time trial in Milan.

The veteran Italian won the final-day time trial in 2008 and is always among the favorites for victory against the clock.

“I had a good prologue and we rode a good TTT, so I hope to finish off the Giro with a chance to win in Milan,” Pinotti told VeloNews. “I want to finish off the Giro on a good note. It’s been special for me to get back to the race.”

Pinotti crashed out of last year’s Giro along with ex-High Road teammate Craig Lewis. Lewis suffered worse injuries, but Pinotti broke his femur and struggled to regain his fitness last season.

Now 36, Pinotti said he was hoping to ride close to the top 10, but struggled on Sunday’s soggy stage across the climbs near his home in Bergamo.

“I had a really bad day (Sunday) and I lost a lot of time and fell back in GC. That’s too bad, because I was hoping I could have stayed close to the top 10,” said Pinotti. “I had a crash and I just wasn’t feeling good that day. Overall, I have to be content to be back near top form in this Giro. I am glad that I am back to my level.”

After the Giro, Pinotti is still on the long list to race the Tour de France, though he is not expecting to get the nod. His next major focus will be the Italian championships at the end of June. A win there could punch his ticket to the London Olympics a month later.

“I would like to win the TT title again,” said Pinotti, who has won it five times, the last in 2010. “I would like to be able to race the Olympics. It depends on how they select the team. We have five riders and they are bringing a team for the road race, but if I am on good form, I can help the team as well as race the time trial.”

Race Notes

The jerseys
Stage winner: Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) wins his second stage of this year’s Giro
Pink leader: Rodríguez retains his 30-second lead to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda)
Blue climber: Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) rides into the day’s early breakaway to pick up 24 points; he leads Michel Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), 65-34
Red points: Mark Cavendish (Sky) retains the points jersey by one point to Rodríguez, 110-109
White young: Rigoberto Urán (Sky) moves back into the lead ahead of teammate Sergio Henao, who now trails by 1:46

Medical report
Dominique Rollin (FDJ-BigMat) crashed on the descent off the Passo Valparola, with cuts to his left elbow and knee. He was transported to a local hospital for x-rays; Gustav Larsson (Vacansoleil-DCM) crashed at 133km “without consequences.”

Jury decisions
Lead Movistar team car will be relegated to last in line for Thursday’s stage after sport director “failed to respect jury instructions” (Art. 12.1.040-28.1).
Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing), Ben Hermans (RadioShack-Nissan), Serguey Lagutin (Vacansoleil) all fined 50 CHF and penalized 20 seconds on GC and 20 points for “sheltering behind a vehicle for some time” (Art. 12.1.040-19.2.2).
Gregor Gazvoda and Mathieu Perget (Ag2r La Mondiale), Fabio Felline (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Brian Bulgac (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Andrey Amador (Movistar), Stefan Denifl (Vacansoleil) all fined 100 CHF for “mechanical assistance, refreshments and behavior that damages image of cycling” (Art. 12.1.040-37bis).

Weather: Summer returns
Warm weather is on the horizon, with highs in the mid-80s F at the finish line, with light NNW winds, 5 to 10 mph, mostly sunny with small chance of afternoon showers.

Tomorrow’s stage: Last easy day
The 95th Giro continues with a short respite for the 149km 18th stage from San Vito di Cadore to Vedelago. The route rolls south out of the Dolomites onto the plains of Veneto. With no rated climbs, the stage has bunch sprint written all over it. The approach is clean coming into the finale, dead-straight and flat with 5km to go, though there will be some traffic circles to contend with. Mark Cavendish will be looking for the stage win to bolster his one-point lead in the red jersey competition.