Petrov's happy birthday

By Jean-François Quénet in Biella Evgeni Petrov started fast in the cronoscalata (uphill time trial)...

By Jean-François Quénet in Biella

Evgeni Petrov started fast in the cronoscalata (uphill time trial) to Oropa where the tifosi remembered the great ride of Marco Pantani in 1999. Just a few days before failing the hematocrit test, the Pirate overcame an early problem near the bottom of the climb and took victory.

In a different exercise against the clock, the Russian did the opposite. At kilometer five, he had the best time. At kilometer nine, he was third. At the top, he finished seventh with a 31 second deficit behind stage winner Marzio Bruseghin. "It's right that I started strongly," he said, "but I didn't feel like I went slow later on."

Neither did his Directeur Sportif Orlando Maini who followed him. "Your gear change was spectacular and you rode really strong," he told a sweating Petrov afterward.

Petrov isn't the kind of guy who shows his emotions very much. Thinking about his birthday - he turned 29 Friday - he smiled and said, "I was feeling pretty good today, better than yesterday anyway. I regretted that I didn't manage to stay with Emmanuele Sella's group."

The Russian is seventh on GC now. He is part of Tinkoff's strong showing at this edition of the Giro. Only 1'15 behind Team CSC's Andy Schleck, who is now third, he can realistically aim for a spot on the final podium in Milan or for the unofficial title of best foreign rider. "I'm happy with my condition, and I'm curious to see what happens in the next few days."

It will be an interesting weekend of racing with the legendary finish at the top of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on Sunday before Monday's rest day. Saturday's stage from Cantù to Bergamo features two significant climbs including the Passo di San Marco.

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