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ROME (AFP) – Former Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso has called for calm after he was slapped and insulted by separatists during the Giro di Padania (Tour of the Po Valley).
He and fellow Italian rider Sacha Modolo, who won Tuesday’s opening stage, put their names to a statement from organizers on Wednesday, in which they called for respect for the cyclists.
“We’re cyclists and we’ve come here to this race to ride and we ask the public to allow us to do so,” said the statement.
“We were insulted and someone even went as far as to start slapping us.
“We find this behavior unacceptable. We’re sportsmen, we train hard every day so we can race and we don’t accept that our efforts are for nothing.”
The Po Valley, in the north of Italy, is home to a secessionist movement supported by the right-wing Northern League political party which wants to create a separate northern Italian state.
Modolo (Colnago-CSF) won stage 1, from Paesana to Laigueglia, in a field sprint ahead of Liquigas’ Elia Viviani, the recent two-stage winner at Colorado’s USAPCC. Basso finished in the field at the same time.