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Furbo is Italian for clever, and ever clever Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) won his second stage of the 2005 Giro d'Italia today in Marina Di Grosseto, a stage that was expected to be for all the sprinters to contest, but in the end it wasn't. Ale-Jet Petacchi, who won a record nine stages at last year's Giro, was looking forward to arriving home in Tuscany, with his beautiful wife Chiara waiting for him, riding his Fassa Bortolo silver train to finally win a stage at this year's Giro. Perhaps Petacchi should have looked at a calendar, for a win for him was not to be. With his silver train steaming away with three kilometres to go, Matteo Tosatto overshot a 90 degree right-hand bend and took down the entire Fassa Bortolo team, including Petacchi, ending any chance for a sprint victory for the sputtering Ale-Jet.
Once Fassa Bortolo had self-destructed, McEwen's Davitamon-Lotto squad took control of the situation with 2km to go. No team was sure what to do, so with a clever tactical move, McEwen sent his teammate Henk Vogels on the attack to force the other teams to chase and that they did. As Vogels started to slow in the last 500m, McEwen just sat back until just the right moment and then blasted off the front of the group to win the stage in a classic display of Aussie criterium tactics as applied to a ProTour stage finish.
It was the third win in seven stages for Australian rider [not counting virtual wins - ed.] and a clearly delighted McEwen told Italian TV, "It was a beautiful win for me...the final circuit was very complicated and after Fassa crashed, my team went to the front. I told Vogels to attack and let the others chase. But I realized when the others were starting to sprint that it was impossible for Vogels so I went full gas. I'm sorry for Henk, but for the team it was a bello, bello, bello win."
Henk Vogels missed out on his present from McEwen, but was still very happy with the team's victory. Vogels explained the final kilometres to Cyclingnews: "I got caught behind the crash with Petacchi, but we had Christophe Brandt in fifth position and I said 'just get me up the front'. We were doing about 50 km/h after the crash, Christophe took me directly to the front, and dropped me off with 2 km to go. Then I just wound it up at the front to 60km/h, and Robbie just let the gap go around the a couple of corners. I had 100m lead and I saw 1100m to go. I dropped it in the 11, stood up and went full gas. I saw the Panaria guy right up my arse but he wasn't going to catch me before the finish. I think Robbie knew the peloton was coming fast so he just had to go. Cooke and Kirsipuu were very itchy, and [Robbie] felt that if they were going to get me, then he had better win it.
"We were the ones on fire. We were the winners on the day. It shows that we are the team to be reckoned with, it's a great result," finished a very pumped Vogels.
After finishing the stage 2'00 behind McEwen, a disappointed Petacchi said ,"Our train came off the tracks today..it's too bad because I wanted to do well here in Toscana. But that happens. I have to be patient. I hope there will be some more chances to sprint like in Ravenna or (Rossano Veneto)."
After Paolo Bettini took the 0'06 Intergiro time bonus in Manciano, he knew he would be the new maglia rosa in Marina di Grosseto. Bettini is from Cecina, just up the Tuscan coast from Grosetto and had many of his tifosi at the stage finish today. "Today I realized from the feelings in my legs that yesterday I did too much. It was good that today was a short and relatively easy stage. So I managed to take back the maglia rosa and tomorrow will get to ride through Tuscany wearing the most beautiful colour of the Giro!"
Although Danilo Di Luca had to hand over his maglia rosa to Bettini after just one stage, he could be happy that he was able to change it for his elegant white ProTour leader's jersey. Liquigas-Bianchi had decided to look down the line and not defend Di Luca's Giro lead. "We decided to save our team, especially because tomorrow is a tough stage. We want to have as many riders as possible for the last week of the Giro, so it went well to have the maglia rosa for at least one day. We want to have the riders to support Garzelli and Cioni in the last week of the race."
On another beautiful spring day, 190 riders left Viterbo, northwest of Rome in upper Lazio near Lago di Bolsena at 13:21. Non-starter due to a fever was Panaria climber Freddy Gonzalez. Marichal (Cofidis) made the first attack, followed by Bettini (Quick.Step), Di Biase (Selle Italia), Halgand (CA) and Joachim (Discovery) but was brought back after 4km. Trenti 'Willo' Wilson (Selle Italia) made the next break, but Quick.Step was closing down everything until the Intergiro in Manciano. Next to try his luck along the shores of Lago di Bolsena was another Selle Italia rider, Illiano, and he got a gap of 0'10 but only lasted 5km until Quick.Step rode him down.
After 55km, the Stage 6 entered the Provincia of Grosetto, Selle Italia's Marlon Perez Arango abandoned with back problems after 60km, and as the Intergiro in Manciano approached after 64km, Quick.Step upped the pace and Stefano Zanini gave a perfect lead out to his teammate Bettini who took the 0'06 time bonus and rode back into the maglia rosa he lost the day before to Danilo Di Luca. But Di Luca and his Liquigas-Bianchi team didn't seem to be that interested in defending the maglia rosa; his team director Stefano Zanatta told RAI-TV that we decided not to go crazy to defend (Di Luca's) maglia rosa. We have other objectives at this Giro. The average speed was 39.4 km/h and Krauss was third in the Intergiro, keeping his lead in the classification.
Right after the Intergiro, Saunier Duval's second year pro Juan Cobo took off solo and no one went after him. Riding his first Grand Tour, Cobo is a good time trialist and decided to try his luck. After two hours, the average speed was 40.85km/h and as the gruppo maglia rosa approached the GPM in the hill town of Scansano, an easy 9km ascent, it was Fassa Bortolo now taking command. Cobo was 1'30 up the road and his director Matteo Algeri was encouraging the young Spanish rider to make it to the GPM.
Cobo got the GPM and behind had provoked a counter move from maglia verde Rujano, who was followed by Muravyev (CA), Marichal (Cofidis), Veneberg (Rabobank) and Urweider (Phonak), who were 0'45 behind the solo Spaniard, with the gruppo maglia rosa at 1'10. Off the back was sprinter Ivan Quaranta (Domina Vacanze), who was suffering from stomach problems.
Cobo slowed a bit and let the chasers catch him after 95km. Muravyev and Rujano had waited for the gruppo, while Urweider, Marichal and Veneberg made it a quartet with Cobo, 1'00 ahead of the Fassa Bortolo-led gruppo on the long easy descent among the vineyards and olive groves of the Colline Marremese to Grosseto. After a tough, gutsy 15 km chase, finally Quaranta made it back to the group.
Once off the slopes of the Colline Marremese and on to the flat coastline, the break continued to lose time as the Fassa Bortolo silver train continued to crank up the pace. Lobato (Saunier Duval) and Hesjedal (Discovery) crashed together near Preselle with 45km to go, but both got up and chased back on. At the feed zone with 38km to go, the break had 0'48 and there were now 15km before the three 6km finishing circuits.
After Grosseto on the flat coast road to Marina di Grosseto, the gap dropped to 0'20 and with 18km to go the break came back. As the gruppo hit the finish line for the first of three finishing circuits in Marina di Grosetto, a huge crash split the gruppo in three. Among the crashed riders were Sentjens (Rabobank), Dean (CA), Korff (T-Mobile) while Gonchar, Bertagnolli and Beloki were caught behind in the second group at 0'15.
Dean abandoned with a probable broken collarbone and with two laps to go, FDJ was up front, while the race was still split in three groups. On the last lap, the second group with Gonchar, Bertagnolli and Beloki caught the front group. With 4km to go, Fassa Bortolo went to the front, but on a right hand bend with 3km to go, their train derailed when Tosatto went off the road and Petacchi crashed. McEwen's Davitamon-Lotto team took control and McEwen took his second stage win of the 2005 Giro d'Italia.
Due north is the direction and Pistoia is the destination for the end of week one of the 88th Giro d'Italia. Once again, a final circuit will condition the stage outcome, but it's not for the speedsters. After passing close to the skyscraper towers of San Gimignano and climbing the San Baronto GPM with 48km to go, next stop is the tough climb of Sammome. This steep narrow ascent gains 491m in just 4.5km, then plunges back down to Pistoia to finish in the Piazza S.Francesco d'Assisi. A dangerous finale for riders who have ambitions to win the Giro, for a bad position before the Sammome could cost valuable seconds.