By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002
Saeco’s Danilo Di Luca, riding for the Saeco team, took the overall lead of Tirreno-Adriatico by winning Saturday’s 180km third stage from Anagni to Rocca Di Cambio.
Di Luca rolled in 14 seconds clear of second-placed Dutchman Erik Dekker who clinched runners-up spot by outsprinting another Italian Franco Pellizotti, who finished third.
It was a vintage solo effort from 26-year-old Di Luca who was racing on home territory in his native Abruzzo region in the center of Italy and confirmed his form ahead of next week’s Milan-San Remo classic in which he will spearhead his new team’s challenge. “This was a tough climb but I thought it was not a killer so I thought I would risk going it alone,” said Di Luca who takes the leader’s jersey from German Erik Zabel, winner of the first stage.
“But there is a long way to go. Sunday’s time trial (a 12.7km ride around Rieti) will be an ordeal.”
This was the most demanding stage of the week-long race which begins on Italy’s Tyrrhenian coast before crossing the peninsula to the traditional finishing point of San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic shoreline.
And Di Luca’s sterling effort makes him firm favorite for overall honors with the most difficult terrain now behind the riders.
Di Luca took charge of the stage at the start of the final 10.2km climb to the finish with a six percent gradient to Rocca di Cambio, just south of the central city of L’Aquila.
After his Saeco team-mate Alessandro Spezialetti had led to the foot of the final climb Di Luca made his decisive break and just 6km from the finish had put 32 seconds between himself and his closest pursuer.
Although that margin was gradually eroded Di Luca was never in danger.
Meanwhile, Polish cyclist Piotr Wadeckj was still in an induced coma after undergoing surgery Friday following his fall in Thursday’s opening stage. His life is not thought to be in danger but media reports Saturday questioned whether he would be able to resume his career.
Wadeckj was the most affected cyclist after a number of riders tumbled when a stray dog ran across their path. Copyright AFP2002
Results after 180km third stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race from Anagni to Rocca Di Cambio:
1. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) 4:59:37 (average speed 37.047 kph);
2. Erik Dekker (Ned) at 14sec;
3. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) same time;
4. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) at 0:16;
5. Massimiliano Gentili (Ita) at 0:22;
6. Enrico Cassani (Ita);
7. Cristian Gasperoni (Ita);
8. Oskar Camenzind (Swi);
9. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita);
10. Michael Boogerd (Ned) all s.t.
1. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) in 14hrs 13min 38sec (average 36.689 km/h);
2. Erik Dekker (Ned) at 0:17;
3. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) at 0:19;
4. Paolo Bettini (Ita) at 0:21;
5. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) at 0:22;
6. Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) at 0:25;
7. Enrico Cassani (Ita) at 0:28;
8. Michael Boogerd (Ned) s.t.;
9. Giuliano Figueras (Ita) s.t.;
10. Massimiliano Gentili (Ita) s.t.