The war of words between Giro climbing aces Riccardo Riccò and Emanuele Sella continued to rage on Saturday morning, with both riders sticking to the guns they'd so spectacularly wielded after stage 19 to Monte Pora.
Asked whether he would repeat yesterday's comments to the effect that Sella and his CSF team-mate Domenico Pozzovivo had conspired with Giro leader Alberto Contador and against him, Riccò didn't hesitate. "[What I'd say now would be] even worse," snapped 'The Cobra" after signing on for the day's stage in Rovetta.
"Anyone who understands cycling can work out what happened," he'd said earlier. "People who defended Sella are ignorant."
Riccò's quotes in Saturday morning's Gazzetta dello Sport had already banished any doubts about exactly what the Saunier-Duval rider was insinuating when he criticized Sella last night.
"Sella tried to be cute," he told La Gazzetta. "I hope that Contador at least paid him for it..."
That allegation may yet land Riccò in trouble with the Italian Cycling Federation. Many observers on the Giro, though, maintain that Sella and Pozzovivo's tactics yesterday raised questions. A quick glance back at yesterday's TV footage may raise more still; immediately after Riccò's attack four kilometres from the line, between them, Sella and Pozzovivo spent around three-and-half-minutes leading the chase group containing Contador. It bears pointing out, however, that Franco Pellizotti put in a much longer, four-minute stint on the front, while Silence Lotto's Jurgen Van Den Broeck also pulled for just over a minute.
Speaking to BikeRadar this morning in Rovetta, CSF directeur sportif Roberto Reverberi was keen to stress Pellizotti's role, and wondered why the Liquigas rider had been spared Riccò's wrath.
"Next time he should watch the TV pictures for himself before shooting his mouth off," Reverberi said. "We're not here to do anyone any favours, but Riccò just puts people's backs up. If he wants us to help him or anyone else to help him in future, he's not going the right way about it."
Sella's comments were in a similar vein: "I was frustrated by what he said, and, like everyone else, I can watch the TV pictures and see that I did nothing wrong. If fact, it was thanks to my attacks that Alberto was in trouble..."
Sella's parting shot was right from the Riccardo Riccò school of personal insults: "He is a great athlete...but a small man," the CSF climber hissed.
Astana's Andreas Kloeden pulls out of Giro Saturday
According to an AFP report, German rider Andreas Kloeden, an Astana teammate of Spanish race leader Alberto Contador, has pulled out of the Tour of Italy during Saturday's 20th stage, organisers said.
Kloeden retired after 105km, near the Gavia summit, the first major climb of this 224km penultimate stage from Rovetta to Tirano.
The 32-year-old won the Tour of Romandie earlier this month and had been assisting Contador, in a better position than him to win the Giro.
The German, who finished second in the Tour de France in 2004 and 2006, was competing in the Tour of Italy for the first time.