Michele Scarponi to get pink jersey
ROME -- Giro d'Italia organizers are planning to present Michele Scarponi with the pink jersey as last year's champion after Alberto Contador was stripped of the honor for doping.
Giro general director Michele Acquarone told The Associated Press that the presentation will be held next Thursday in Denmark, two days before this year's race kicks off with three stages in the Scandinavian country.
In February, Contador received a two-year ban that was backdated, annulling his 2011 Giro win, among other races.
"For the fans, Contador won the race last year and he wore the pink jersey in Milan. But according to the ban Contador never raced, so statistically Scarponi becomes the winner," Acquarone said Thursday in a phone interview.
Scarponi had finished second last year, 6 minutes, 10 seconds behind Contador. Fellow Italian Vincenzo Nibali was third and John Gadret of France was fourth.
Acquarone also said that Scarponi will wear the No. 1 jersey in the May 5-27 race which ends in Milan -- the usual honor for the defending champion.
"I know that's not how Scarponi wants to win it, so I'm sure this will make him want to win it more than anyone else this year," Acquarone said. "This should serve as motivation for him."
In 2007, Scarponi was banned for 18 months for involvement in the Operation Puerto Spanish doping scandal. He joined the Lampre team last year, and therefore is not among those under investigation by a Mantova prosecutor into alleged team-wide doping at Lampre in 2008 and 2009.
However, several of Scarponi's teammates are under investigation, as are team leaders.
"I'm not worried, but if there's somebody who should be worried, it's Lampre," Acquarone said. "As far as I'm concerned, everyone is starting off equal. Then if it comes out that someone's cheating, they'll be eliminated.
"The teams should know by now that it's easy to be caught. Everyone is being tested."
Also, no rider will wear No. 108 this year. That number has been permanently retired in the Giro after Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt died wearing it in the third stage last year after clipping a wall and crashing during a descent.
Weylandt won the third stage in 2010, and this year's third stage will be dedicated to him, with Acquarone saying that Weylandt's family has been invited to Denmark for the occasion.
Already the managing director at RCS Sport, Acquarone took on a bigger role with the Giro after former director Angelo Zomegnan exited after last year's race. He shares duties with technical director Mauro Vegni.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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