This is the Alessandro Petacchi we all remember, the world-class sprinter delivered to the line by a well-orchestrated machine of a lead-out team and fending off a field of the world’s best over the last meters of a stage. It’s enough to make a guy forget the last 12 months.
In a Giro d’Italia that’s being hyped as a showdown between the young guns, a pair of grizzled veterans stole the spotlight in Tuesday’s grueling 250km climbing stage sun-baked mountains above Genova.
Leonardo Piepoli and Andrea Noè, two unsung workhorses in an age of millionaire GC captains, clawed their way to the podium at the end of an explosive battle that saw the end of Marco Pinotti’s pink jersey run.
In a nation that’s produces sprinters like Texas churns out linebackers, Danilo Napolitano hardly rated on the power rankings in the Italian sprinter hierarchy.
All that changed Monday for the 26-year-old Sicilian when he bullied his way past Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) and Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) to win the 177km ninth stage by a whisker.
Kurt-Asle Arvesen doesn’t win very often, but when he does, he has a knack for beating some pretty big names.
The 32-year-old CSC rider scored his 15th professional win in Sunday’s 200km eighth stage ath the Giro d’Italia with style, out-sprinting reigning world champion Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) in a stinking hot stage that saw a 22-man breakaway featuring George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) take four minutes out of the main peloton.
It was a bike stab to turn the page on a year of suffering.
Alessandro Petacchi jammed his bike across the line in Saturday’s seventh stage to win for the second time in a week and officially close the book on his long comeback from injury in last year’s Giro d’Italia.
The Milram rider timed his move perfectly to win a high-octane sprint on the Mugello race circuit ahead of Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and Paolo Bettini (QuickStep-Innergetic) by a half-wheel length.
Danilo Di Luca called this one.
Secure in his leader’s jersey at the end of Thursday’s stage to Frascati, the Liquigas rider said that Friday’s stage – with three moderate to tough climbs spread along the route – would be a prime opportunity for a break-away effort to succeed and perhaps relieve him of the pressure of defending the maglia rosa for a while. Right, on both counts.
No one seemed particularly happy with the finish of the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday - except the guy who won it.
Gerolsteiner’s Robert Förster emerged at the front of a mad dash through a frightening closing kilometer at the end a 173-kilometer stage from Teano to Frascati to score the second Giro stage victory of his career. Overall race leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) finished comfortably in the main field to hold on to his 26-second advantage over teammate Franco Pellizotti on general classification.
Tyler Hamilton’s status with Tinkoff Credit Systems appears doubtful in the wake of his departure from the team just days before the start of the90th Giro d’Italia.
Tinkoff folded to pressure from Giro organizers over Hamilton’s alleged links to the Opera?ion Puerto doping scandal and dropped him from what would have been Hamilton’s first grand tour since he tested positive for homologous blood doping in the 2004 Vuelta a España.
Danilo Di Luca repeated his victory atop the Montevergine climb from 2001 in Wednesday’s rainy and crash-marred fourth stage, but things have changed a lot for “The Killer” since those heady days six years ago.
Back then, Di Luca was the hot, emerging star who everyone predicted would one day win the Giro d’Italia. Other than come close with fourth overall in 2005, Di Luca has never delivered on that promise.
You could almost hear the “delete” buttons being tapped in the Giro d’Italia pressroom in Cagliari on the Island of Sardinia on Monday.
All of those stories about how Milram’s Alessandro Petacchi was a washed-up version of yesterday’s news were sent to the trash can as the man known as Ale-Jet scored his 20th Giro stage win at the end of a largely flat, 181-kilometer stage from Barumini to Cagliari.