Stage and Yellow for The Dauphin
Franco Pellizotti caught the sprinters in a moment of weakness and attacked to take stage two and the leader's Maillot Jaune of the 2007 Paris-Nice. As the stage, 177 kilometres from Vatan, came to a close in Limoges, the road kicked upward with a rise of 3% gradient over 2.5 kilometres, and it was here Il Delfino di Bibione (The Dauphin of Bibione) struck Quick-Step's sprint team.
"Behind [the escape group] Quick-Step took the final rise with an impressive velocity," explained the 29 year-old, blonde haired rider from Liquigas to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It was too strong. What they did was blow out everyone, including the sprinters and their own Tom Boonen. It was a beginner's error because we would have caught the break anyway."
Thomas Volker and Murilo Fischer, the last of the escapees, were caught in the final kilometre and soon after the play for victory started. Pellizotti noted Quick-Step's errors and the work of his teammate, Luca Paolini. "At 600 metres, Quick-Step setup an opening for [Steven] De Jongh but he did not have great legs. Paolini understood the situation and screamed for me to take off; and to think I was going to take him to the sprint."
The win was similar to his last, in the 2006 Giro d'Italia, where he darted ahead on the riser into Peschici. But Pellizotti's pedigree runs deeper, in 2005 he won the stage and overall of the Coppi & Bartali, proving that he has a chance to take the final Maillot Jaune in The Race to the Sun. He believes he has the winter's base and teammates to help him achieve this goal when the race finishes on the Côte d'Azur, in four days.
"It is thanks to the tremendous work we performed during the winter camps, in which there was created this great team spirit," he continued, Paolini and Patrick Calcagni were both present to help in the finale, and both finished in the top 10, enabling Liquigas to now control the teams' classification.
"For me, it was very useful to race the Tour of California [he finished ninth overall - ed.]. I am in the yellow jersey also thanks to a great prologue. ... Once a week I train specifically on my time trial bike; two hours, at times two and a half. I have had a lot of useful input from [Mario] Scirea, and [Stefano] Zanatta has modified my position. I think I am on the right track.
"I hope that I will arrive in Nice wearing yellow."