Sprinters to emerge for stage nine

Riccardo Riccò might have taken the maglia ciclamino from the shoulders of Daniele Bennati on...

Riccardo Riccò might have taken the maglia ciclamino from the shoulders of Daniele Bennati on Saturday, but the Liquigas sprinter will be itching to get his hands back on that jersey when the Giro d'Italia hits the pan flat roads on stage nine. The team of former pink jersey Franco Pellizotti no longer has to worry about defending that lead, and will be sure to give full throttle on the run-in to San Vincenzo.

One sprinter who has been struggling to fulfil his team's goal of a stage win is Rabobank's Graeme Brown. The Australian crashed on stage three and has been suffering home in the gruppetto ever since. Team leader Erik Breukink was concerned about Brown. "He is having a tough time. Graeme is showing some character, but I cannot predict where this will end," Breukink commented on the team's web site rabobank.nl. "Obviously, he had to go through a lot this week. Multiple times, he was involved in a serious crash and that explains why the stages are extra difficult. He is one of the weakest uphill riders of the Giro. Because of his efforts to stay in the race, he didn't fare very well today either. He fell behind on every climb. Additionally, he crashed again."

Even though Saturday's stage is almost completely flat, Breukink isn't convinced Brown will be in contention for the win. "Indeed, the course is easier, even though it again covers almost 220 kilometres. However, I am not sure whether it is realistic to expect anything from Brown. He has really used up a lot of his energy supplies this week. According to me, Bennati, Cavendish and McEwen will be the favourites. But, Graeme is and will always be a sprinter and they are unpredictable."

Milram's Erik Zabel is another rider who could be raising his arms in victory in San Vincenzo, but he will attempt the sprint with a diminished lead-out train. Italian Sergio Ghisalberti had to abandon the race Saturday with a torn muscle in his right leg. This leaves the team down to six riders.

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