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Illiano blasts back

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Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), 31, takes his first win after four years of trying.

Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), 31, takes his first win after four years of trying. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) finished second for the day

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) finished second for the day (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) finished second for the day but took the overall lead

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) finished second for the day but took the overall lead (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) with Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit Systems)

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) with Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit Systems) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) forms the winning escape

Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) forms the winning escape (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The nice surroundings in Italy.

The nice surroundings in Italy. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) in the two-man move.

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) in the two-man move. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) in the overall leader's jersey.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) in the overall leader's jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) rides with Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit Systems) in the early escape.

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) rides with Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit Systems) in the early escape. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) grits

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) grits (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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Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) sees it is TV time.

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) sees it is TV time. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) is blurred.

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) is blurred. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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LPR charges

LPR charges (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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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) lost his lead to Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld).

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) lost his lead to Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott)

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pietro Algeri services Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott).

Pietro Algeri services Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Wonderful views.

Wonderful views. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gubbio below

Gubbio below (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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Lucky Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) rides

Lucky Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) rides (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Keeping time.

Keeping time. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott)

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) early on in the stage.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) early on in the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) takes a deep breath.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) takes a deep breath. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) checks the damage done.

Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) checks the damage done. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) leads the bunch home.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) leads the bunch home. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Great view of Gubbio on the decent.

Great view of Gubbio on the decent. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Daniele Pietropolli (LPR Brakes) attacks

Daniele Pietropolli (LPR Brakes) attacks (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Team Manager Gianni Savio happy for Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare)

Team Manager Gianni Savio happy for Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott) made the winning move.

Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott) made the winning move. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) grits.

Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) grits. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The gap is timed.

The gap is timed. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) does damage.

Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) does damage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott)

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott) rides along.

Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott) rides along. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott)

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) happy for his team-mate's win.

Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) happy for his team-mate's win. (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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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott)

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) (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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Linus Gerdemann (High Road) made the winning six-man move.

Linus Gerdemann (High Road) made the winning six-man move. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mavic prepares for the day.

Mavic prepares for the day. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) at the start.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) at the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) is back racing.

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) is back racing. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mavic neutral support.

Mavic neutral support. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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LPR Brakes at the start.

LPR Brakes at the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabio Baldato (Lampre) smiles

Fabio Baldato (Lampre) smiles (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes)

Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) (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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Team CSC must be thinking about its title sponsor moving on.

Team CSC must be thinking about its title sponsor moving on. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) rides with Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott).

Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) rides with Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Chipotle in the back pocket.

Chipotle in the back pocket. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) takes a nap before the start.

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) takes a nap before the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Luis Felipe Laverde (CSF Group Navigare)

Luis Felipe Laverde (CSF Group Navigare) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) readies for the stage.

Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) readies for the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The race crew

The race crew (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) rides along.

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) rides along. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Caisse d'Epargne ride out of the start.

Caisse d'Epargne ride out of the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tree-lined roads

Tree-lined roads (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) tosses a water bottle.

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) tosses a water bottle. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Gatto (Gerolsteiner)

Oscar Gatto (Gerolsteiner) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Trees line the road.

Trees line the road. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) in the Belgian Champ jersey.

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) in the Belgian Champ jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli)

Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott)

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Rabobank lead the way.

Rabobank lead the way. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) looks back.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) looks back. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The race rolls

The race rolls (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) was first in the chasing group.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) was first in the chasing group. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) flings his bike after crossing the line because he was frustrated with a mechanical in the final metres.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) flings his bike after crossing the line because he was frustrated with a mechanical in the final metres. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) launches his bike.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) launches his bike. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) walks his bike.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) walks his bike. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The bike is tossed.

The bike is tossed. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccò's bike is on its own after being launched.

Riccò's bike is on its own after being launched. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccò's bike flies on its own.

Riccò's bike flies on its own. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) unhappy at the finish.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) unhappy at the finish. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italian Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) explains the situation to Alessandra Di Stefano of Rai.

Italian Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) explains the situation to Alessandra Di Stefano of Rai. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) takes the overall lead.

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) takes the overall lead. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) take the win.

Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) take the win. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) awarded on stage.

Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) awarded on stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) in the mountains lead after the stage.

Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) in the mountains lead after the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) finished second for the day but took the overall lead.

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) finished second for the day but took the overall lead. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) back on top after four years.

Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) back on top after four years. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) took the young riders' classification even though missing out on the stage.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) took the young riders' classification even though missing out on the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) on stage.

Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) on stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) takes his first win after four years of trying.

Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) takes his first win after four years of trying. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italian Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) overjoyed with his victory.

Italian Raffaele Illiano (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) overjoyed with his victory. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) took the overall lead but had to be content with second on the stage.

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) took the overall lead but had to be content with second on the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Italian Raffaele Illiano, who hadn't won in four years, profited from his team-mate Niklas Axelsson's work to win stage two of the 43rd Tirreno-Adriatico. The 31 year-old of the Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli team took the sprint over Barloworld's Enrico Gasparotto after the duo broke free from their fellow escape companions at 200 metres from the line. Linus Gerdemann (High Road), Saunier Duval's Eros Capecchi and Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) also formed part of the winning move that went on Belvedere climb, 17.2 kilometres to go. For his efforts, Italian Gasparotto took the maglia azzurra leader's jersey from Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

"I had my crash yesterday... After seven years as a professional..." Illiano paused while holding back the tears following his win in Gubbio, one day after crashing and taking five stitches to his knee. His last win came in October 2004, a year that also included the Intergiro win in the Giro d'Italia.

He turned professional with Colombia-Selle Italia, but last year he left the side of Team Manager Gianni Savio to ride for Ceramica Flaminia. However, in Gubbio he found that winning came easiest when working once more under the charming Italian.

"I am thankful to Savio, my parents, my wife and the trust given by Gianni Savio and [Team DS Marco] Bellini."

The day belonged to Savio's team, thanks to the two rockets fired by Swede Niklas Axelsson. The 35 year-old launched his first shot on the lower slopes of the 6.6-kilometre Belvedere to form the eventual winning move. He was immediately followed by Illiano before being joined by Gasparotto, Riccò, Capecchi and Gerdemann.

The second blast was fired by Axelsson after five hours of racing and with 800 metres to go to the line in the same city where 20 years ago Bjarne Riis recorded his first major win with a sprint over Rolf Sorensen. Riccò was most attentive to the power of Axelsson and reeled the cagey veteran back; however, Illiano countered without delay.

The finale further went haywire for the Saunier Duval rider from Modena as he tried to re-accelerate and his rear wheel touched with Gerdemann's. He continued on but shortly before the line he had to dismount and walk his Scott bike over the line, where he immediately slammed it down in disgust, annoyed that the mechanical ruined his chances.

"While I was trying to bring back the sprint, Linus Gerdemann... I don't know," he tried to explain of the German that held the leader's jersey in last year's Tour de France. "His head was hanging low, and he did not have the legs. He touched my rear wheel. I would have won. I could have won." In fairness, looking at the re-play, it appeared that Riccò was the one who deviated from his line and not the German.

The chasing group trailed in 32 seconds later with Italian Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) leading the charge. It was always within reach of the six-man move, but never able to close in on the gap that stayed more or less at 25 seconds. "At five or six kilometres to go, it was too late to start the work," noted Pozzato, who is building his form for the upcoming Milano-Sanremo, March 22.

How it unfolded

The day started out at 10:42 when 168 riders rolled out of Civitavecchia, the city where Oscar Freire (Rabobank) took the win and the overall leader's maglia azzurra. Four kilometres into the longest stage of the 43rd Tirreno-Adriatico, the day had its first escape: Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and 'Lucky' Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare).

Contrini and 'Lucky' were given their freedom and allowed to build an advantage of 7'58" by kilometre 105. However, with teams Rabobank, Lampre and Milram on the prowl the move was not to be successful. Shortly after entering Umbria's Perugia province, the gap was down to 5'20". In the main gruppo Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) and Christian Murro (Lampre) were showing strong.

Antton Luengo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) abandoned with 30 kilometres remaining.

The luck of the duo ran out at kilometre 179 and the door opened for stage finale tactics on the Belvedere GPM (Gran Premio della Montagna). Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) launched himself up the road and was marked by, among others, Belgian Champion Stijn Devolder (Quick Step). The games were putting some of the sprinters on the ropes; Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) and World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) were seen near the rear end of the race. By the GPM they were 1'18" back of the race winning move that had been formed shortly into Belvedere (630m).

An elite chase group had formed with Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), Daniele Pietropolli (LPR Brakes) and Luca Mazzanti (Tinkoff Credit Systems). They were absorbed with the chase group that included Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Pozzato, Di Luca, Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) and recent Eroica winner, Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC). The eventual 21-man move finished the race 32" back. Freire, who was not in this group, finished 8'23" back.

The Tirreno-Adriatico continues tomorrow with stage three, starting from Gubbio and travelling 195 kilometres to bring the riders to the 1.78-kilometre wall of a finish in Montelupone.

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