Mark Cavendish was the toast of Italy this morning, with the fans cheering him at the start in Belvedere Marritimo and the press hailing him as cycling?s new sprint sensation.

As he enjoyed his new-found star status, the 22-year-old, who celebrates his 23rd birthday a week today, hit back at one of his critics, the Italian rider Filippo Pozzato, in the pages of one of Italy?s most respected Italian sports papers.

In this month?s Cycle Sport, Pozzato accused Cavendish of holding onto team cars after getting dropped and then contesting sprints ? a charge the Isle of Man rider fiercely denies in this morning’s Gazzetta dello Sport.

Meanwhile, the paper dedicated two pages to Cavendish, comparing him to Robbie McEwen, a sprinter of similar stature and with a similar riding style who has become one of the most respected and loved riders among the Italian fans.

The paper?s headline read, simply, ?The Giro discovers a new sprinting star?.

But Pozzato?s words had clearly riled the youngster.

Speaking exclusively to the June issue of our sister magazine Cycle Sport Pozzato said: ?I?ve got a lot of respect for almost everyone in the peloton but I just don?t like Riccardo Ricco and Mark Cavendish.

?It?s about respect. For the first two years of my career I kept my mouth shut and my head down but Ricco and Cavendish don?t have that same respect for their elders.

?Cavendish is very fast in sprints ? everybody knows that ? but I don?t like him. Even if you?re fast and win sprints you?ve still got to have respect for the other riders.

?Cavendish is dangerous because he never brakes and tries to go through impossible gaps.

?He was the first to sign the UCI ethics charter but then hangs onto the team car and then contests the sprints. He?s right to make a stand against doping but cheating like that is almost as bad as doping.

?You?ve got to have respect for the other riders in the race who made it over the climb or suffered in the finale of a tough stage.?

Cavendish hit back in today?s edition of the Italian sports paper.

He said: ?Pozzato accused me of holding onto cars but I?ve never done that.

?If you notice, Pozzato has a problem with three or four guys in the peloton and they are all young riders who are coming through. ?He thinks he?s the boss of the peloton and he can boss people around.?

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS
Stage four: Cavendish wins
Stage three: Bennati romps home
Stage two: Ricco wins Giro d’Italia second stage
Stage one TTT: Slipstream wins Giro team time trial

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: NEWS
Reaction to Cavendish’s Giro stage win
Cav hits back at Pozzato’s snipe
Cavendish: This is my biggest win [stage four]
Millar celebrates Slipstream Giro d’Italia success
Bettini looking for final Giro glory
Astana’s troubled build-up to the Giro
Petacchi banned for Salbutamol positive
Yates and Astana make last minute rush to Giro

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: PHOTOS
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery. New photos added daily

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: FEATURES
Giro Britannia: how the Brits are doing in Italy
Giro d’Italia 2008 preview
Giro d’Italia 2008: who will win?
Giro d’Italia 2008: The British are coming
Giro d’Italia on Eurosport: TV schedule