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Although Paolo Bettini threatened to quit the Giro after being relegated from first place on yesterday's stage into Frosinone, the Quick Step rider who still leads the race has since said that he will keep racing, "but only for the team, because I respect the sponsor and my team-mates."
Bettini added that everyone he'd spoken to said that he did not deserve to be disqualified for a manoeuvre that was ruled by the commissaries to have been a movement off his racing line, and which ended with Baden Cooke crashing spectacularly into the roadside barriers. "I don't believe I made any fundamental change of direction. I think the jury has been influenced by those who were commentating on the stage."
Among those who agreed with Bettini's defence were Erik Zabel, who said he felt there was no reason to relegate the Italian. However, Michele Scarponi, who was in the small group chasing Bettini and Cooke, said he had not seen anything untoward because Dario Cioni and eventual stage-winner Luca Mazzanti had blocked his view. But after seeing the incident on TV, Scarponi, who said he is a friend of Bettini, felt that the right decision had been taken by the judges.
The main criticism of Cooke was that he had chosen the wrong side to attack Bettini on, going down towards the barriers rather than the open side of the road. On his website, Cooke said, "In the bus going to the race this morning, I told the guys: 'Today I'll crash or I'll win.' I guess I crashed... I needed this win deeply. At least the form I told everyone I had is now obvious. I'm better than ever. I'm still highly motivated for a stage win in the Giro."
Speaking to reporters after the stage, Cooke had described the finish as he saw it. "I got over the hill no worries. None of the sprinters were left, I got on Bettini's wheel, he hit out early, I gave him a length, and I was absolutely cruising. [I] dropped it down the gears, ran at him, just about to blow his helmet off as I went past him... and he's just turned left and put me in the barrier."
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