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By Andrew Hood
Liquigas went full bore in the double-stage opener of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali in Italy on Tuesday.
The 2002 U23 world champion Francesco Chicchi sprinted to victory in the morning road stage and then the Italian squad won the 11.8km team time trial afternoon stage ahead of Acqua e Sapone and Tinkoff Credit Systems.
“Everything was going very well. The athletes were without fault with an excellent start and they raced without hesitations,” said Liquigas sport director Mario Chiesa. “I feel sorry for the sponsor tomorrow because our green-blue jerseys won’t be so visible. We’ll be starting with three leader’s jerseys.”
Chicchi snags the leader’s jersey as well as the points while Dario Cataldo claims the best young rider’s jersey in his season debut.
Chicchi won the 94km sprint stage starting and finishing in Ricione ahead of Mattia Gavazzi (Preti Mangimi-Prisma Stufe) and Danilo Napolitano (Lampre).
For Chicchi, who also won the final stage at Tirreno-Adriatico last week, it’s a good sign that his form is improving ahead of the northern classics.
“It’s almost becoming second nature,” said Chicchi. “I am happy about my condition, which makes me look positive toward the northern classics. I have De Panne, Wevelgem and, finally, the dream of Paris-Roubaix.”
The race continues Wednesday with the 175.6km second stage from Castel San Pietro Terme to Faenza.