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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rebellious Russian Leads Italian Giro

KRANJ, Slovenia ? Evgeny Berzin, the race leader of the Giro d'Italia, led his own Russian revolution three years ago to join cycling's professional ranks. Tired of the military-style training regime, Berzin and fellow Russian Vladislav Bobrik quit the camp at St. Petersburg where the daily routine comprised five hours' training followed by three hours of studying and an hour of swimming. Punishment was swift. Berzin, a double world-track champion in 1990, was expelled from the Barcelona Olympics squad and sent to do his military service. He spent only a month as a soldier before he was snapped up by the military cycling club in Moscow. "Previously, I discovered that the life of an athlete was hard, but with the Moscow club I learned to use my head," said Berzin. When the military world road-race championship was held in Italy, Berzin and Bobrik helped Gabriele Colombo to win the title for Italy, and forged links that led to the Russian pair signing for a new Italian professional team, Mecair-Ballan, last year. Before he signed, Berzin got married and moved with his wife Stella to Italy. After his 1990 gold-medal world double, Dutch-based professional team Panasonic had shown interest in Berzin, then only 20, but the Soviet Cycling Federation blocked any move because of the Olympics, so Berzin was ripe for rebellion. In his first Giro last year, Berzin worked hard to help teammate Moreno Argentin of Italy defend his pink jersey as race leader for 10 days. When Argentin lost it, Berzin was so embarrassed because he felt he had failed his leader that he had to be persuaded not to quit the race. Now the Italian is working hard in the current edition of the Giro to keep his fresh-faced teammate in the pink. n In Thursday's 12th stage, Berzin finished two seconds behind the winner, Andrea Ferrigato, but he remained the overall leader for the eighth consecutive day. Ferrigato won by edging fellow Italian Fabio Baldato in a close sprint in this Slovenian town. Uzbek Djamoldine Abdoujaparov, the winner of Tuesday's stage in Marostica, beat Russian Dmitri Konychev for third place as the race crossed into Slovenia -- the first of three legs ending across Italian borders. Berzin, who will celebrate his 24th birthday Friday, kept a lead of 2:16 minutes over French runner-up Armand De Las Cuevas. Italy's Gianni Bugno, a Giro winner in 1990, had an unchanged gap of 2:32 minutes from Berzin, in third place. Defending champion Miguel Indurain of Spain was fourth overall, 3:39 minutes behind. Ferrigato, 24, covered the mostly flat 204-kilometer distance from Bibione to Kranj in four hours, 47 minutes, four seconds at an average speed of 42.847 kph. He captured his first-stage victory fighting off a strong comeback of Baldato in the last 50 meters. (Reuters, AP)