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Strong field gathers on Italian island for 2010 event
The staff of teams competing in this week's Giro di Sardegna faced a late night on Sunday as they, quite literally, ferried their squads' equipment to the port city of Olbia on the Italian island.
The five-stage event will begin in Olbia on Tuesday for just the second running of the event in the past 13 years. Void of significant climbs, the event is likely to suit sprinter who can record consistent finishes; as it did last season when Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo) took a stage win and four top-ten placings to record a 12 second overall win.
Bennati will not return to defend his title at the race, with Liquigas-Doimo opting to send Roman Kreuziger and Vincenzo Nibali as the team's big name riders. While Bennati will be absent, sprint rival Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) will return, keen to improve on a single stage victory last year.
A number of other high-profile riders will also take part in the event and hope to foil the sprinters. Alexander Kolobnev (Katusha), Giovanni Visconti (ISD-Neri), Stefano Garzelli (Aqua & Sapone) and Michael Rasmussen (Miche) will likely look for participation in an escape to secure a high overall finish.
RadioShack's Janez Brajkovic and US-rider Chris Horner will both be opening their respective seasons at the event.
Bennati's victory at the 2009 Giro di Sardegna came ahead of Oscar Gatto, who will return this year with his ISD-Neri squad. BMC Racing team's absence from the event means Alessandro Ballan will not have the opportunity to improve on third place last year.
The race begins in Olbia on Tuesday, February 23 and will conclude in the island's capital, Cagliari, on Saturday, February 27.