"I feel like he must have felt when battling Cipollini," quipped 26 year-old Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) after winning stage three of the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, and taking the overall lead back from his race rival Alessandro Petacchi (Milram). Petacchi, now 33 years-old, is up against a younger sprinter, much like when he first went head to head with the Lion King, Mario Cipollini.
Neither Benna or Ale-Jet have the class and palmarès of Cipollini but nonetheless their sprint rivalry is producing some exciting racing that is sure reappear in the Milano-Sanremo, March 24. Benna took stage one and the overall lead, only to lose it in stage two, when the older of the two got the win. Yesterday, Thursday, they locked horns again, this time it was Benna, making it 2 to 1, and taking the maillot amarillo.
"It still has not registered that I have beaten Petacchi two times," said the rider from Tuscany after the stage to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "They [the wins] were made in a short time but will remain special. I think I must feel like him, when he battled Cipollini. I was convinced that I had also made a special sprint on Tuesday [stage one], but this confirms what was wanted. I have shown that I can also be supreme in a 'regular' sprint."
Today is the decisive stage that will help form the final general classification and likely put both the Italian fast men out of overall contention. The riders tackle 162 kilometres, starting from Albaida and finishing on the Alt del Campello.
After the Spanish race, Bennati, who lives in Rigutino with his wife, will not see Petacchi again until Milano-Sanremo. Reflecting on the upcoming Sanremo, Benna added, "I will not try for victory at all costs. In the middle there is Paris-Nice and I would like to also battle [Tom] Boonen."