Giro will ride out doping storm, says Cunego
Milan: The Giro d`Italia will survive its latest doping controversy because of the fervent passion of cycling fans and the growing interest in the race from abroad, 2004 winner Damiano Cunego told reporters.
The world`s second biggest stage race after the Tour de France starts with a time trial in Amsterdam on Saturday and while organisers are keeping a worried eye on the Icelandic volcanic ash, the dark cloud of doping has certainly returned.
Liquigas rider Franco Pellizotti, one of the favourites for the race which finishes in Verona on May 30, has been withdrawn after the International Cycling Union (UCI) said there was suspicious blood data in his biological passport.
Italian Pellizotti was previously lifted up to second spot in the 2009 Giro rankings after original runner-up Danilo Di Luca was banned for two years for doping.
"When you talk about cycling, unfortunately all the various problems get highlighted," said Italy`s Cunego, whose own Lampre team has been the target of an unproven doping probe.
"In reality, cycling is a sport still much-loved by fans, it`s enough to see all the people filling the streets of Europe and lately even in other countries like Australia.”
"TV viewership for big races like the Giro is also good. All this shows that people still love cycling and this is a fundamental factor for our sport."
The fact Italy`s top cycling race is beginning in the Netherlands, where bikes are part of everyday life, underlines the pulling power of the Giro in its 101st year.
Organisers are also looking at plans to start the 2012 event in Washington, with officials in the United States capital keen despite the steady stream of doping scandals and last year`s farce when riders refused to race the tight streets of Milan.
"The idea of starting the Giro in Washington is ambitious. Ignoring the feasibility of the project, it`s important to note that it`s a positive sign of great interest towards the Giro and therefore towards the whole cycling world," Cunego added.