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Bettini's sprint was a disgrace. The pictures tell a very simple story.
Denham Jones, Adelaide
Tough on Cooke, but I would be surprised if he spoke out, he seems to be someone who will put it down to experience (and call in a favour from Bettini in the future.
Richard Briggs, UK
How dare the judges acknowledge that Bettini was swimming all over the course, not even remotely staying on his line and then awarding him 4th and Baden LAST!! Why did they even bother to remove his stage win from him?? Cooke was 100% robbed and Bettini was the thief!!
Liz, Boca Raton, Florida, USA
I got the full skinny on [Italian TV channel] RAI! If you look at the slo-mo from the front camera you will clearly, plainly see Bettini do an armpit scope out and immediately after change his line! IMMEDIATELY AFTER! Blatant. He shouldn't have gotten 4th - more so what Cooke got - LAST. The Cookie monster had a nice gap you could ride a camera bike thru until Bettini shifted. I'm all for blocking out if the competitor is not inside your wheel, but if you give a guy daylight you're saying come around me if you've got the legs. Bettini probably saw who it was and panicked himself into a bad decision hence the no hard feelings gesture at the end.
Lee3, NYC, USA
Paolo Bettini did absolutely nothing wrong! His line was a gradual and continuous drift to the left. Don't believe me, then have a look at the slow-motion on Eurosport. Baden Cooke was still at least a quarter of a bike length back when the gap was too small to ride through but Baden Cooke still persevered into the (by now) non-gap and appeared to ride his bars into Bettini's saddle. Now check the front view of the incident and you will see that Baden Cooke had already lost control of his bike before he crashed as can be seen when his back wheel kicked to his right! He then leant to the right as his bike went left against the hoarding. Come on, Baden, admit that you misjudged the situation and apologise to Paolo Bettini for the good of the sport.
If Paulo Bettini's disqualification remains in place then Jan Kirsippu should have been disqualified (probably from the Giro not just the stage 3 result) for his "active" force in displacing Petacchi during the sprint there! Maybe that didn't count because Petacchi did the sensible thing and pulled back rather than risk his livelihood (and maybe his life).
IMHO, Bettini did nothing wrong. Cookie had the entire right side of the road to come around Bettini, but he chose to take the inside line. While Bettini didn't keep a straight line to the finish, I don't think he intentionally forced Cooke into the barriers. I disagree with the judges' decision. If they ruled against Bettini today, then they should've ruled against Di Luca in the stage 3 finish when he almost put Bettini into the barriers in a similar move.
I must admit that I don't understand why Cooke kept moving left with Bettini. He (Bettini) had started to move in that direction from a reasonable way out, leaving a completely open road to the right for Cooke to use and attack. Bettini is a rider of great integrity and somehow can't see him deliberately pushing Cooke into the rails. He does at least still hold the leader's jersey. Placing Cooke last in the stage is a little rough though and not entirely fair on him. Here's to a clean fight!
It seems clear that an Australian will always be right in the eyes of procycling (even when less classy than McEwen, to whom respect is due). Cooke fell off on his own today, Bettini was OK.
Bettini pulled a cheap manoeuvre today, one not worthy of a professional bike racer. He doesn't make himself look any better by threatening to take his bike and go home either. He got off easy compared to what it cost Cooke. Cooke must be stewing about it too since stage wins in any Grand Tour don't come easy. It looked to me like had Cooke been given room, he had the acceleration to beat Bettini to the line by a length or two at least.
Chuck Curtiss, Dallas, TX
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