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Freire fires a warning shot with stage win

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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) realises he has won against Petacchi

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) realises he has won against Petacchi (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The tiger jump of Petacchi was not enough to get past Freire

The tiger jump of Petacchi was not enough to get past Freire (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) realises he has won the first stage of the 2008 Tirreno-Adriatico.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) realises he has won the first stage of the 2008 Tirreno-Adriatico. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Freire celebrates his victory which was a hard-fought duel against Italian Alessandro Petacchi.

Freire celebrates his victory which was a hard-fought duel against Italian Alessandro Petacchi. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The tiger jump of Petacchi was not enough to beat Freire.

The tiger jump of Petacchi was not enough to beat Freire. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) celebrates his victory with Rojas (behind on the right) in third.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) celebrates his victory with Rojas (behind on the right) in third. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Milram train was there but had a few gaps at the end, due to the nervous finale.

The Milram train was there but had a few gaps at the end, due to the nervous finale. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini had nothing to do with the outcome today and pedaled in behind the peloton.

Paolo Bettini had nothing to do with the outcome today and pedaled in behind the peloton. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Freire showed just how good he can be anytime there is a sprint.

Freire showed just how good he can be anytime there is a sprint. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Freire enjoys the kisses on the podium as he received the blue jersey.

Freire enjoys the kisses on the podium as he received the blue jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Spaniard waves to the crowd as he steps onto the podium.

The Spaniard waves to the crowd as he steps onto the podium. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A blue Freire is happy but his cap looks a little too large.

A blue Freire is happy but his cap looks a little too large. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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McEwen couldn't quite pull off the stunt he did in 2007, taking off in the twisting finale. He finished eighth.

McEwen couldn't quite pull off the stunt he did in 2007, taking off in the twisting finale. He finished eighth. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andy Schleck (CSC) is followed by Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step).

Andy Schleck (CSC) is followed by Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Baden Cooke looks like he just raced and he certainly did, finishing fifth.

Baden Cooke looks like he just raced and he certainly did, finishing fifth. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca made it to the start line in a last-ditch effort, with CONI still having some questions about his positive in last year's Giro.

Danilo Di Luca made it to the start line in a last-ditch effort, with CONI still having some questions about his positive in last year's Giro. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) explains how it just didn't work out against the pure sprinters today.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) explains how it just didn't work out against the pure sprinters today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Freire lifts his arms as he beat Petacchi and Rojas.

Freire lifts his arms as he beat Petacchi and Rojas. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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George Hincapie (High Road) getting back to racing after taking a bit of a break.

George Hincapie (High Road) getting back to racing after taking a bit of a break. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) was in the break but couldn't quite stay away.

Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) was in the break but couldn't quite stay away. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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An angry tifosi wanted to take out the riders but a Carabinieri prevented it.

An angry tifosi wanted to take out the riders but a Carabinieri prevented it. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini and Raffaele Illiano ride tranquilo in the earlier part of the race

Paolo Bettini and Raffaele Illiano ride tranquilo in the earlier part of the race (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton passing Tarquinia.

The peloton passing Tarquinia. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton tries to fit through a hole in the wall.

The peloton tries to fit through a hole in the wall. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Caisse d'Epargne riders chatting.

Caisse d'Epargne riders chatting. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton riding past the scenic piazza in Tarquinia.

The peloton riding past the scenic piazza in Tarquinia. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Milram put the hammer down.

Milram put the hammer down. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Petacchi couldn't prevent Freire from winning.

Petacchi couldn't prevent Freire from winning. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Freire looks over to check on his rivals.

Freire looks over to check on his rivals. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The sprint in full swing.

The sprint in full swing. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gianni Bugno getting ready for a helicopter flight for Italian TV.

Gianni Bugno getting ready for a helicopter flight for Italian TV. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Francesco Tomei (CSF Group Navigare) during the race.

Francesco Tomei (CSF Group Navigare) during the race. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ballan holds on to Bettini's bike and the World Champ pretends as he hadn't noticed.

Ballan holds on to Bettini's bike and the World Champ pretends as he hadn't noticed. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Freire (l) and Petacchi fight it out.

Freire (l) and Petacchi fight it out. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bugno in front of the RAI helicopter.

Bugno in front of the RAI helicopter. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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George Hincapie (High Road) is back in the action and getting ready for the spring classics.

George Hincapie (High Road) is back in the action and getting ready for the spring classics. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Francesco Ginanni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) hangs on for some advise.

Francesco Ginanni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) hangs on for some advise. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Gatto (Gerolsteiner) is concentrating in the bunch.

Oscar Gatto (Gerolsteiner) is concentrating in the bunch. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gerolsteiner is trying to set up a train but the German railway is on strike these days!

Gerolsteiner is trying to set up a train but the German railway is on strike these days! (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) is using Tirreno to get in shape for the classics.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) is using Tirreno to get in shape for the classics. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Petacchi was at the front end towards the end but not quite at the very front, where he wanted to be.

Petacchi was at the front end towards the end but not quite at the very front, where he wanted to be. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) rides along on stage 1.

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) rides along on stage 1. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Murilo Fischer (Liquigas) found the temperatures OK despite knowing that it is warmer in his native Brazil right now.

Murilo Fischer (Liquigas) found the temperatures OK despite knowing that it is warmer in his native Brazil right now. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gasparotto is drafting to save energy.

Gasparotto is drafting to save energy. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gerdemann and Hincapie (l)

Gerdemann and Hincapie (l) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ale-Jet was doing well but it was hard to get around a superb Freire.

Ale-Jet was doing well but it was hard to get around a superb Freire. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) is back in the race action.

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) is back in the race action. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Italian will still have to have some meetings and some explaining to do with CONI and CAS.

The Italian will still have to have some meetings and some explaining to do with CONI and CAS. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Milram train in full swing.

The Milram train in full swing. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Petacchi knows how to place himself well in the bunch.

Petacchi knows how to place himself well in the bunch. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato with trademark tattoo.

Pozzato with trademark tattoo. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Patrick Calcagni (Barloworld) rides along the final, twisty part.

Patrick Calcagni (Barloworld) rides along the final, twisty part. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Marco Bandiera (Lampre) in the peloton.

Marco Bandiera (Lampre) in the peloton. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) also uses the race as preparation for the upcoming classics.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) also uses the race as preparation for the upcoming classics. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Eros Capecchi (Saunier Duval-Scott)

Eros Capecchi (Saunier Duval-Scott) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) looking good.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) looking good. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare)

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) takes a left turn in the finale.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) takes a left turn in the finale. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) safely in the pack.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) safely in the pack. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato surrounded by team-mates.

Pozzato surrounded by team-mates. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli)

Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Axelsson and team-mates getting back into the peloton.

Axelsson and team-mates getting back into the peloton. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Axelsson the Swede is gritting his teeth.

Axelsson the Swede is gritting his teeth. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Liquigas single-filed.

Liquigas single-filed. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas)in front.

Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas)in front. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato at the scenic part of the route.

Pozzato at the scenic part of the route. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) pedals near the gutter.

Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) pedals near the gutter. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Look ma, no hands!

Look ma, no hands! (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tinkoff promised to try even harder than last year to get a stage win.

Tinkoff promised to try even harder than last year to get a stage win. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)

Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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David Zabriskie (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) also races in Italy.

David Zabriskie (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) also races in Italy. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Zabriskie will be looking to be more of a team leader as was the case with CSC.

Zabriskie will be looking to be more of a team leader as was the case with CSC. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner)

Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frederik Willems (Liquigas) is a valuable domestique, but can win races, too.

Frederik Willems (Liquigas) is a valuable domestique, but can win races, too. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

In a nail-biting finish Oscar Freire (Rabobank) narrowly beat Italian favourite Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram). The Spaniard finished off a long sprint and, while fading at the end, held off Petacchi. The winner of the same stage last year, Robbie McEwen, tried the same tactic as in 2007, taking off early and trying to gap the peloton in the twisting finale. However, the Australian was not allowed too much leeway this time and eventually finished eighth.

Freire had said before the start that he wasn't sure about his condition yet, but "if I am there in the end, I will also go for it." The Spaniard has given the best answer on the development of his form ahead of Milano-Sanremo.

Petacchi declared after the race, "We knew it would be difficult to manage this finale and the nervousness in the group was high in the last kilometres. I was at risk of going down about one kilometre from the finish, and Zabel only managed to position himself in front of me at the very end. McEwen did another great showing, getting out of the last turn with a few metres on Zabel, Freire and me. Oscar managed to start the sprint a few seconds before me, because I was still in the turn, while he had already straightened his bike. There were only 180m left and catching Freire is not easy,"

The long escape of the day was carried out by Russian Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Ukrainian Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who rode ahead of the peloton for more than 110 kilometres. But their effort fell short, and they were brought back just four kilometres from the line.

How it unfolded

The riders set out under sunny skies and temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius shortly before noon from Civitavecchia.

Ignatiev was the first to succeed with a breakaway attempt at kilometre 38. He was joined by Krivtsov eight kilometres later. The duo pedaled ahead of the peloton, splitting the sprint in Santa Marinella at kilometre 55.9 (Ignatiev before Krivtsov) and the first GPM in Tolfa, at 495m of altitude and 84.7 kilometres into the race (Krivtsov before Ignatiev).

Their advantage grew to a maximum of 7'45" at kilometre 108. Then the gap consistently got smaller under the impact of the many sprinters' teams available to foil a solo or duo win. With less than 25 kilometres to go the two up front had less than three minutes. Ignatiev tried a couple of times to shake his riding partner and continue solo, knowing his time trialing abilities. However, the Ukrainian Krivtsov had good legs, too, and was able to counter every time. Eventually they continued trading turns again at the front.

But the gap came down rapidly now, and when the two went through the finish area for the first time with another three laps or 12 kilometres to go, the advantage was under the one-minute mark.

In the twisting roads of Civitavecchia, there was a brief split in the peloton with less than ten kilometres to race, putting only about 30 riders at the front. But by the time the bell for the last lap was rung, the peloton was together both at the front and at the end. The Eastern European escape duo had been caught right on the line with four kilometres to go, while the large group left behind, containing Paolo Bettini all the way at the very end, had also made the junction again, leaving it open for a bunch sprint. The sprinters were getting ready, ending the day with remarkable skill to manoeuvre around the tight course without crashing.

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