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.
Robbie McEwen doesn’t speak much Italian, but he knows enough to tell TV reporters at the finish line in a hot and challenging 205km second stage along the west coast of Sardinia that was he was tickled pink with his 12th career Giro d’Italia stage victory.
The Australian pocket rocket bolted past a wilting Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) and held off a late burst by Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) to notch his 153rd career victory.
The Giro d’Italia just wouldn’t be the same without a good dose of polemica, the favored pastime of this passionate nation of 60 million souls, and there was plenty of it in Saturday’s opening stage of the 90th corsa rosa.
[nid:38529]UCI president Pat McQuaid got things off to a good start when he showed up an hour before the team time trial between the Caprera and La Maddalena islands to tell Italian journalists there would be no deal-making for scandal-marred Ivan Basso (see "McQuaid:No breaks for Basso").
Our man Andrew Hood found himself with a little extra time on his hands Friday (okay, a lot of extra time), and so he shot a few snaps of what he called the "unique" opening ceremonies of the 2007 Giro d'Italia, which entailed ferrying the riders, support staff, organizers, officials and press to the deck of Italy's only aircraft carrier — to say nothing of a fair amount of just sitting around, waiting for something to happen. Finally, it did, and Andy sent us the pix to prove it.
With Operación Puerto eliminating defending champion Ivan Basso and potential contenders Michele Scarponi and Tyler Hamilton, the list of potential winners is much shorter. This will lead to a more uncertain Giro, but the podium is almost sure to be contested by the big four: Cunego, Simoni, Savoldelli and Di Luca.
Damiano Cunego (I), Lampre-Fondital
Giro highlights: Overall winner, four stage wins and 11 days in the maglia rosa in 2004, 4th overall in 2006 (but almost 20 minutes back), 18th in 2005, 34th in 2003.
The skinny: After being zapped by mononucleosis in