By Andrew Hood
Italian Ruggero Marzoli (Alessio) won a sloppy uphill sprint into the scenic hilltop town of Rapagnano Monday as the Tirreno-Adriatico pedaled into sunny skies a day after Sunday’s stage was snowed out.
Monday’s 181km fifth stage from Monte San Giusto to Rapagnano brought the “Race of Two Seas” closer to the sea after Sunday’s snowy, cold weather forced race officials to cancel the fourth stage over 800-metre Valico Colfiorito climb. Racers woke up to sunny but cool temperatures for the rolling stage ending with a 3-kilometer climb.
Ukraine Sergiy Matveyev (Panaria) made the day’s big move, attacking at 21km and holding a 5:57 lead over the peloton at 92km. Aussie Michael Rogers (Quick Step) was among a counter-attack that had 20 riders and split the main bunch with 24km to go. Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha (iBanesto.com) went away solo and had a 20-second gap coming into the finish, but was gobbled up with just 500 meters to go.
Marzoli shot ahead to take the stage-win just ahead of Quick Step’s Luca Paolini and Dutch rider Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), who came across taking third.
“Many might be surprised by my victory, but I’ve been close many times,” said Marzoli, who bounced into fourth-place with time bonuses. “I’m a rider who is still improving and I am just finding my legs.”
Race leader Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) finished with the first group to retain the overall lead, but woke up with fever Sunday. He said he felt better Monday and vows to start Tuesday’s difficult climbing stage.
“I didn’t make the sprint today because I am not 100 percent,” said Bettini, already a winner this year at Tour Mediterranean. “I had a fever Sunday and I might not have raced, but the stage was cancelled. I woke up this morning feeling better.”
Tuesday’s 181km sixth stage from Teramo to Torricella Sicura will likely decide the winner. The stage was scheduled to hit the 1334-metre Ceppo climb midway through the stage, but cold, unpredictable weather has forced officials to eliminate the climb. Instead, the stage will finish with three passages up the short but steep climb finish in Torricella.