TIRANO, Italy (Reuters) - Italy's Diego Ulissi was awarded victory on stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday after compatriot Giovanni Visconti crossed the line first but was demoted to third for an irregular sprint manoeuvre.
As the two riders made their final dash for the line in Tirano, Italian national champion Visconti pushed Ulissi aside in a bid to squeeze between his rival and the left-hand roadside barriers.
Race officials later announced that Visconti had been demoted, with Ulissi the winner and Spain's Pablo Lastras in second.
Part of a day-long attack group of 16 that shrank to four frontrunners with six km to go, Lampre-ISD rider Ulissi said he deserved to be stage winner.
"I tried to keep my position and concentrated on my sprint when I felt somebody trying to push past," the 21-year-old told reporters.
"But I maintained a straight line and didn't make any attempt to block anybody.
"Winning today was a just reward because I'd been playing a clever game all day."
"I intentionally didn't do as much work as the others in the break so I could be as strong as possible in the sprint, which isn't my strong point."
Visconti's own sports director, Luca Scinto, distanced himself from his Farnese Vini rider's actions, telling Italian tv: "both of them (Visconti and Ulissi) should have been disqualified and Lastras should have won. I'm very disappointed."
Spain's Alberto Contador, who finished in the main pack two minutes 59 seconds behind, retained the overall lead but complained about the day's fast pace.
"It was a long, exhausting stage with more than 3,000 metres of climbing," the Saxo Bank rider told reporters, "and despite the hot weather we still went at an average speed of 41 kmh.
"Hopefully tomorrow (Thursday) we'll go at (an average of) 35 kph instead."
The Giro d'Italia finishes on Sunday with an individual time trial in Milan.
(Editing by Justin Palmer)