Just three weeks after he began his 2008 season, Liquigas' Daniele Bennati has taken his second win of the season. The Italian bested eternal-second place finisher Erik Zabel (Team Milram) on Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia, his first major victory on home soil.
The 27 year-old Bennati is well on his way to becoming the next big Italian sprinter. He came of age last year in the Tour de France, where he won two stages, including the coveted final stage on the Champs-Élysées.
"Finally, I have a stage win in the Giro," said Bennati. "I am very happy with this as it is my first win in this race.
"It was good to place myself between [Marco] Velo and Zabel in the Milram train," he continued. "But when Velo moved off the front, I had to really go for it. I didn't look back, I only thought about getting to the finish first because I was worried about Zabel getting by."
Bennati has already achieved his goal of a stage win in this year's race, but with just a few weeks of racing in his legs his form could go either way over the coming weeks. Bennati has already stated that his next major goal after the Giro will be the Tour.
He was forced to have an extended lay-off from racing at the end of 2007 due to persistent knee problems, only beginning his season three weeks ago at the Giro d'Oro and Giro del Trentino. A week after his 2008 debut he missed out by less than a second in the opening prologue in the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland. Five days later he put that disappointment behind him, taking the final stage into Lausanne.
Bennati has made something of a tradition of winning the final stage of the Tours he has ridden recently. Along with the stage into Laussane at Romandie, he took the final stage of both the 2007 Tour and Vuelta a España.
He will have his work cut out for him this time around if he wished to continue the tradition. The final stage into Milan is a 28.5km time trial, which isn't exactly suited to the fast man from Arezzo.