Napolitano nails first

Sicilian sprinter overcomes McEwen and Petacchi - Pinotti stays in Pink

Danilo Napolitano took a dream win ahead of sprint greats Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) and Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) at the end of the 177-kilometre stage to Lido Di Camaiore. The 26 year-old Lampre-Fondital rider from Sicily took advantage of the work of Milram to conquer Petacchi on home roads for his first Giro d'Italia win. Marco Pinotti's T-Mobile team did its share of the day's pace-making to keep the Italian in Rosa.

Petacchi had to settle for third, despite a picture-perfect set up from his Milram lead out train, which had the bunch spread out single file for the last five kilometres. With Alessandro Cortinovis (Milram) taking to the front for the right-hander into the final stretch along the Mar Tirreno and Viale Sergio Bernardini, Petacchi had to contend with Julian Dean of Crédit Agricole trying to set up his captain Thor Hushovd, as well as a last ditch attack by Salvatore Commesso's (Tinkoff Credit Systems) was captured at 800 metres to go.

Petacchi kept his cool in his maglia ciclamino and hitched on to Hushovd's wheel as the riders made the left curve at 500 metres, but he had McEwen and then Napolitano glued to his wheel. With 200 metres to go, Petacchi's last man pulled off and Ale-Jet started his sprint, but McEwen was able to jump around on his left followed by Napolitano, who surprised McEwen to grab the win from the seasoned Grand Tour stage winner.

"I am very content with this win," noted Napolitano at the finish. "I wanted to follow Petacchi but McEwen moved up very quickly and his wheel ended up being bellissima! And it is always a big gamble to try to grab Petacchi's wheel."

Petacchi makes his home just north of Lido di Camaiore and was not so happy to miss out on the win.

"I would have liked to win because I live close by," said the Milram sprinter. "However, I have already won two stages so I am happy nonetheless. And I am happy with the sprint I did today."

He reflected on that sprint. "I went from too far out and I was in the wind for too long. ... Danilo Napolitano was so strong today, it was clear, but thanks to all my teammates for working - they did a great job."

A crash in the final 75 metres involved Yohann Gène (Bouygues Telecom) but did not stop Napolitano further up the road. The Italian must give thanks to the Green Crédit Agricole team who did a superb job and forced Petacchi on the defensive in the final kilometres. Hushovd had to be satisfied with another placing but the Norwegian is showing some impressive sprint strength.

T-Mobile kept Pinotti safe and the rider from Bergamo enjoyed another day in the leader's maglia rosa. "I am little tired from yesterday but I think everyone was like that today," noted Pinotti. The stage was noticeably calmer than the day before.

Pinotti is concerned about tomorrow's stage to Santuario Nostra Signora Della Guardia and hopes he can see home roads while still in the pink jersey. "I am watching my rivals. I will try to stay close tomorrow and see if I can live out my dream of being in the maglia when the race arrives in Bergamo."

How it unfolded

181 riders departed today at 12:55 under warm and clear skies. The race started in the capital of Reggio Emilia province, Reggio nell'Emilia for its westerly trek, up and over the Apennines, then south along the flat sea coast of the Tuscan Riviera to finish in the resort town of Lido di Camaiore.

After the early explosions in stage eight, the riders were ready for a 'piano' stage. The first hour of racing was highlighted by the rolling Emilia terrain and the sprint of Andrea Pagoto (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare). The Italian took the city sprint in Casina (kilometre 24). The average speed for the first hour of racing was 26.5km/h.

Race leader Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) was happy with the tranquilla pace after his team had to pull so hard the day before. His boys let Frédéric Bessy (Cofidis) nip off the front in Castelnovo ne' Monti (kilometre 40.3) to collect the local sprint prize.

At the end of two hour of racing it was still gruppo compatto and the average was 27 km/h.

The only climb of the day, the Passo del Cerreto, topping out at kilometre 71.7, was set to produce an escape. Elio Aggiano (Tinkoff Credit Systems) opened up affairs and was followed by teammate Pavel Brutt, Pietro Caucchioli (Crédit Agricole), Andrei Kunitski (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo), Maglia Verde Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) and teammate Emanuele Sella (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare).

Laverde succeeded in adding the max points to his Verde lead. The Colombian was followed by Sella and Caucchioli.

This action forced the day's first escape. Il Veronese Caucchioli sat up but Nicolas Crosbie (Bouygues Telecom), Frédéric Bessy (Cofidis), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Andrei Kunitski (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo), Simone Masciarelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) persisted on the decent.

Brutt sat up but Crosbie, Bessy, Kunitski and Masciarelli continued. They started to build up a gap, and by the feed-zone in Aulla they had near three minutes (2'56"). After the quick feed the four took a hard right and started its 70-kilometre trek south to the finish.

T-Mobile had been doing the majority of the early pace-making but Milram finally came to the front to control the affairs for its sprinter, Super Ale-Jet. Lampre lent a hand to the chase for Napolitano once the race hit the coast of Mar Tirreno. The front four, although working well together, could never pass the three minute barrier.

Ag2r Prévoyance threw in some of its boys for the sake of Alexandre Usov. By the time the four, riding on De Rosa and Time Machines, hit fifty kilometres to go its gap was down to just over two minutes. Brett Lancaster (Milram) was talking to his team leader and the two were working out a strategy in which Ale-Jet would win.

If the riders looked off to their left and they could see the Cave di marmo. The Alpi Apuane mountains that appear to be covered in snow but instead is white marble. The same marble that Michelangelo so famously used. The four up front could not think of such art, they had to concentrate on their time advantage, which was now only 1'42".

The last bit of fight was given to the Garibaldi sprint. Crosbie took the sprint over compatriot Bessy and Belarusian Andrei Kunitski. The Milram-led peloton crossed the same point at 2'20" back.

The treno blu did the majority of the work and had pulled the escape down to 1'22" by Pietrasanta, at 20 kilometres to go. The Italian team played the catch very smart. If it had pulled back the escape too soon it would have risked too many counter-attacks. The Milram boys were looking to nail the escape in the final six kilometres, before the right-hander on to the final straight of 5000 metres.

Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff Credit Systems) jammed the accelerator at 15 kilometres to go. To make up for no Tinkoff in the escape, the first time of this Giro, the race's youngest rider went on the attack. He was quickly joined by teammate Mikhail Ignatiev. They make their home near by and knew the roads but so did Ale-Jet. He ordered all of his men on the front to bring back the duo, who had gained 40" on the gruppo travelling at 61 km/h.

The terrible Tinkoff duo was caught with nine kilometres to go when the front four had only 30" on the chase. The escape was now in the death-grip of the Milram milk men.

Just after the four were caught, after nearly 100 kilometres of freedom, there was a lull in the peloton's movement. T-Mobile was washed out and Milram were being joined by the teams of Crédit Agricole and Caisse, in addition to the already present Lampre and Acqua e Sapone.

The finale five kilometres were dead-flat along the shores of Camaiore. The sprinters faced two semi-curves at 500 and 300 metres to go. The first bends to the left and the second to the right, for the finish on Viale Sergio Bernardini.

Tinkoff, not happy with the shape of the race, sent Totò Commesso on the prowl. His capture, just after the red kite of 1000 metres, marked the race's finale and the start of Napolitano's first Giro win, and on Petacchi's soil.

Stage 10 - Tuesday, May 22: Lido Di Camaiore - Santuario Nostra Signora Della Guardia, 250 km

Tomorrow will likely change the look of the Giro d'Italia, with a demanding finale that will make it hard for Pink Pinotti. Starting in Lido di Camaiore, this long stage heads due north along SS1, the via Aurelia through Cinque Terre, over the Passo della Biscia where a break will surely go away, then more up and down to Genova, with a final ascent of 16.3 kilometres to the Santuario Nostra Signora Della Guardia.

After over six hours in the saddle, this climb will separate the contenders from the pretenders in the 2007 Corsa Rosa.

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