Davitamon-Lotto's Robbie McEwen has triumphed in the first sprinters' stage of the Giro d'Italia, which finished in Marcinelle, on the outskirts of Charleroi. After what looked to be a perfect leadout by his Milram boys, Alessandro Petacchi just didn't have the legs to prevent Olaf Pollack from pre-empting the sprint with 200m to go. But McEwen wasted no time and grabbed Pollack's wheel, before powering past on the inside to win by over a bike length. Third place went to Paolo Bettini, with Petacchi a disappointed fourth.
The 197 km stage through the provinces of Hainut and Namur was relatively unremarkable, being held on a grey, damp day. A breakaway of four riders got away after 23 km: Gabriele Missaglia (Selle Italia), Mickael Delage (Française des Jeux), Beñat Albizuri (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Arnaud Labbe (Bouygues Telecom). The four gained 7'00 shortly before the 100 km mark, before Discovery, Milram and Davitamon combined to chase them down with 19 km to go. No-one was able to break the grip of the sprinters' teams after that, and it was a showdown on Marcinelle's Avenue Eugène Mascaux. Petacchi had five men to lead him out, but the slight uphill finish was enough to take the sting out of his legs when Ongarato pulled off at 250m to go. Pollack tried the early move, but McEwen was far too strong for the German and took the second stage.
The overall lead did not change, and Paolo Savoldelli goes into tomorrow's third stage with his 11 second advantage over Brad McGee intact.
Also see: Stage two full results, report & photos and .