By Andrew Hood
Brad McGee (FDJeux.com) vowed to quit the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday if the race jury didn’t overturn a 20-second race penalty imposed on the Australian in Tuesday’s 16th stage.
The race jury ruled the prologue winner took two illegal tows from the FDJeux.com team car at 152km and 154km while climbing up the Category 1 Passo Furcia. Each infraction included a 10-second penalty, a loss of 5 points in the points classification and a fine of 50 Swiss francs.
Sport director Martial Gayant vehemently denied the penalty.
“I absolutely did not tow Brad. Why would we do something so foolish? He has won the prologue, he is fighting for the overall, he only wants to make his own race, now they do this,” Gayant told VeloNews. “If they do not overturn the ruling, Brad will go home.”
The team officially challenged the ruling Wednesday and were awaiting a decision. It’s uncommon for race juries to overturn rulings, however, so it could mean McGee’s Giro could be over.
The Australian won the opening prologue and wore the race leader’s pink jersey for two stages. McGee rode fairly well through Tuesday’s difficult climbing stage and sits sixth overall at 4:12 back.
Gayant was fuming about the ruling and even admitted to towing worker Matt Wilson, but not McGee.
“Yes, I towed Wilson, but he is a gregario and he has 5kg of water on his back, but McGee? It’s a disgrace,” he said. “If you look at the penalties, they are all foreigners. Where are the Italian riders getting sanctioned? I don’t see so many.”
Cunego not in awe of pink
Race leader Damiano Cunego had his sleep disturbed when police came knocking on his hotel-room door at 4 a.m. Wednesday, looking for roommate Alessandro Spezialetti.
Cunego said he was so tired from his impressive effort in Tuesday’s stage that he simply rolled over and went back to sleep. Obviously, the 22-year-old isn’t letting the pressure of the maglia rosa get to him.
“This Giro is far from over, so I cannot say that I am the winner just because I won a stage Tuesday and took the jersey,” said Cunego, who took a dramatic solo victory Tuesday to hold a lead of 1:14 over Serhiy Honchar (De Nardi).
“The stages that are still lying ahead are very difficult. Climbs like the Gavia and the Presolana I’ve only ridden in training, while the Mortirolo I’ve only seen on TV.’
Cunego’s attacking style has electrified the Giro, and the 22-year-old spent much of Wednesday’s talking to the press. After a morning training ride, Cunego joined Gilberto Simoni at a team press conference before appearing on Italian television in the afternoon.
“The only thing that matters is that we stay together as a team,” Cunego said. “We want Saeco to win the Giro; whether it’s me or Gilberto doesn’t matter.”
Simoni vows to support teammate
Two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni knows his chances of winning a third took a blow Tuesday when he didn’t have the legs to follow Cunego’s winning move.
“The plan was for me to go with Damiano, but I couldn’t. He was strongest yesterday, and he deserved the support of the team,” said Simoni, who now sits fourth overall at 2:38 back. “Damiano did what I wanted to do yesterday. Now I promise to help him win this Giro.”
Simoni left the door open for his chances if his young charge should stumble in the three difficult remaining mountain stages. Simoni vowed that he would not attack his teammate, but added that he would follow any move by a rival.