So if you take a second to read last night's post, you'll see that I predicted a Petacchi win today. For the record, I need to say "I told you so" and gloat for a moment or two...
I'm done gloating now.
As predicted, a break tried to get away... and yes, a Tinkoff rider (Elio Eggiano) was in the mix, meaning that there has been at least one Tinkoff rider in each serious break of the Giro so far. I love those guys. You just have to give it to them for their sheer aggression. That's what I call racing! Alas, as is usually the case, the break was doomed to be caught by the big teams with powerful sprinters hungry for a win. It almost wasn't to be though, as first Salvatore Commesso (former stage winner) and then Fabian Cancellara (former stage winner and current World Champ in the time trial) launched separate attacks as the line got very close. Since the course was so wide open along the motor raceway, it was much easier for attacks and much harder for the sprinter's teams to control things. Cancellara was caught with just 200m left to the line, but Petacchi's team was able to launch the tall Italian into his blistering sprint and the mad dash was officially on. Thor Hushovd managed to grab second, though it was a very tough battle with the amazingly good sprinting Bettini, who snagged third in a sprint filled with full-time sprinters. Bettini is that rare breed of non-sprinter who can sprint with many of the best sprinters in the world. Here is a guy who can win a Classic with an uphill sprint, or win on a climb, or win in a mass gallop... and all the while being one of the smallest guys in the race. Ounce for ounce (gram for gram) Bettini has some of the best power to weight output in the world.
So the race was decided by a sprint, as predicted, and Pinotti stays in pink for at least one more day. Tomorrow looks to be another chance for the sprinters and surely Petacchi will want to give it another try before the real mountains arrive. The course is littered with rolling hills and smaller mountains, but the last 80+km are largely flat. Expect breaks to go (Tinkoff?) and sprinter teams to be reeling them in as the finish draws near. McEwen was absent from the day's sprint today, so unless he is truly down and out already, expect him to try and put his mark on the race again. He's a tough bloke who hates losing. Either him or Hushovd should be extra determined tomorrow... the real climbs are coming very soon.