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Freire takes Tirreno's Castelfidardo power climb

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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) is showing good form ahead of Milano-Sanremo

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) is showing good form ahead of Milano-Sanremo
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) dfended well against the attacks of Gasparotto

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) dfended well against the attacks of Gasparotto
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Di Luca was strong and is looking to do well in the Belgian classics soon

Di Luca was strong and is looking to do well in the Belgian classics soon
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Freire and Di Luca battle it out. The Spaniard won while the Italian had to settle for third, behind compatriot Pozzato

Freire and Di Luca battle it out. The Spaniard won while the Italian had to settle for third, behind compatriot Pozzato
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) gets the better of Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas, green jersey) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes).

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) gets the better of Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas, green jersey) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes).
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The 4-kilometre climb took it out of the riders, as sprinters rarely cross the line in a tired pose like this.

The 4-kilometre climb took it out of the riders, as sprinters rarely cross the line in a tired pose like this.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Freire made sure he stayed close to the front even if it meant using unusual means sometimes. This looked very similar to what riders did in Paris-Nice.

Freire made sure he stayed close to the front even if it meant using unusual means sometimes. This looked very similar to what riders did in Paris-Nice.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) also opted for the little short cut as he is cheered on by a tifosi.

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) also opted for the little short cut as he is cheered on by a tifosi.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Freire, Di Luca and Pozzato (l-r) created a little gap to the peloton with their fierce sprinting up the hill.

Freire, Di Luca and Pozzato (l-r) created a little gap to the peloton with their fierce sprinting up the hill.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) looks good in his blue jersey as his team-mate Andy Schleck looks on in admiration.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) looks good in his blue jersey as his team-mate Andy Schleck looks on in admiration.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Patrik Calcagni (Barloworld) during the stage.

Patrik Calcagni (Barloworld) during the stage.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara on a downhill controlling his brakes with the touch of a finger.

Cancellara on a downhill controlling his brakes with the touch of a finger.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Di Luca on De Rosa and the Italian likes the feeling of being back on the bike.

Di Luca on De Rosa and the Italian likes the feeling of being back on the bike.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The break that didn't work as the main peloton caught them before the showdown.

The break that didn't work as the main peloton caught them before the showdown.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) on a descent on a day where finishing was all that counted for him. The next day would provide one final hurray for the sprinters.

Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) on a descent on a day where finishing was all that counted for him. The next day would provide one final hurray for the sprinters.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) checks on his team and sees that they are all there.

Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) checks on his team and sees that they are all there.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Felipe Laverde in the green jersey of his team – staying true to his name.

Felipe Laverde in the green jersey of his team – staying true to his name.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Spring is in the air and the Tirreno riders are happy they didn't have to deal with the conditions of the first few days in Paris-Nice.

Spring is in the air and the Tirreno riders are happy they didn't have to deal with the conditions of the first few days in Paris-Nice.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton winds its way through the Italian country side.

The peloton winds its way through the Italian country side.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The break was a little ahead of the peloton.

The break was a little ahead of the peloton.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Renaud Dion gets a friendly push from Paolo Longo Borghini.

Renaud Dion gets a friendly push from Paolo Longo Borghini.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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German champion Fabian Wegmann rides along in the bunch.

German champion Fabian Wegmann rides along in the bunch.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frederik Willems en route to the finale.

Frederik Willems en route to the finale.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara smiles at the start and had more reasons to smile at the finish.

Cancellara smiles at the start and had more reasons to smile at the finish.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen takes off on a sunny day.

Tom Boonen takes off on a sunny day.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bettini found a clever way to get up to the front of the peloton.

Bettini found a clever way to get up to the front of the peloton.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Erik Zabel in his sprinting position but he didn't need that today.

Erik Zabel in his sprinting position but he didn't need that today.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato with his colourful shoes

Pozzato with his colourful shoes
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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CSC controlled the peloton as they had race leader Fabian Cancellara in the lineup.

CSC controlled the peloton as they had race leader Fabian Cancellara in the lineup.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton passing a scenic Italian village.

The peloton passing a scenic Italian village.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A Rabobanker saw what Bettini did and figured he could follow suit.

A Rabobanker saw what Bettini did and figured he could follow suit.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The impressive figure of Swede Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) rides by, just after the start.

The impressive figure of Swede Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) rides by, just after the start.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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CSC in control.

CSC in control.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara near the front.

Cancellara near the front.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton waiting for the gun to blast.

The peloton waiting for the gun to blast.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli)

Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott) in the feed zone.

Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott) in the feed zone.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Di Luca signals to his team car.

Di Luca signals to his team car.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) showing team-mates how to descend.

Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) showing team-mates how to descend.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Spanish champ Joaquím Rodriguez

Spanish champ Joaquím Rodriguez
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton stretched out.

The peloton stretched out.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara assists Pippo to read a statement about the inhumane treatment of Kevin Van Impe, who was subjected to a doping control while making arrangements for the funeral of his infant son.

Cancellara assists Pippo to read a statement about the inhumane treatment of Kevin Van Impe, who was subjected to a doping control while making arrangements for the funeral of his infant son.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato explains that bike riders are also humans.

Pozzato explains that bike riders are also humans.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Niklas Axelsson is still in the top 5 in GC.

Niklas Axelsson is still in the top 5 in GC.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen powerful on his Specialized bike.

Tom Boonen powerful on his Specialized bike.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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LPR didn't have the brakes on as they were getting Di Luca in position.

LPR didn't have the brakes on as they were getting Di Luca in position.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) in the centre.

Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) in the centre.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) attentive in the end.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) attentive in the end.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The sprint for victory and Pozzato looks like he's got it, but over his right shoulder trouble is brewing.

The sprint for victory and Pozzato looks like he's got it, but over his right shoulder trouble is brewing.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) in the leader's jersey.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) in the leader's jersey.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) shows the strain after a hard fought win.

Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) shows the strain after a hard fought win.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) shows the signs of a tough finish.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) shows the signs of a tough finish.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Team CSC put the hammer down on the front of the peloton.

Team CSC put the hammer down on the front of the peloton.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Di Luca with his "killer" face on.

Di Luca with his "killer" face on.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Cancellara's GC lead proves untouchable

Spaniard Oscar Freire took his second season win on Tirreno-Adriatico's power climb to Castelfidardo, nipping past Italian Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes). The Liquigas and LPR teams had worked hard to position their leaders for the finale up the four-kilometre climb, but it was the 32 year-old three-time World Champion who ruled the hilltop town of accordion builders.

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) made a bid for the stage win and Fabian Cancellara's overall lead mid-way up the climb, but the CSC rider matched the Italian pedal for pedal stroke to stuff the move. Cancellara, with a 16-second lead over Gasparotto, looks likely to keep the race lead when the 43rd Tirreno-Adriatico concludes tomorrow with a sprinters' stage in San Benedetto del Tronto.

The race was formed by an early escape, but it was closed down by the fifth and last climb up Castelfidardo. Freire managed the climb's 4.5-percent gradient and an attack by Gasparotto to take the sprint from an elite group. "If you win here it means you are going strong," Freire said, referring to Saturday's Milano-Sanremo, where he has won twice.

"I think that the new finale won't change the race much. This year, the race will be changed by the riders, there are a lot of on-form, attacking riders. I think that it will be diverse for us [sprinters] at Sanremo. I also think that Cancellara can do it all, even win in the sprint."

It was 'Spartacus' Cancellara who rose to the occasion 24 hours after his time trial win to take the leader's maglia azzurra. After matching the attack from Gasparotto, he upped the pace before sitting in on the sprint finale.

"The team worked completely for me to defend the jersey," said the 26 year-old Swiss. "Gasparotto did what he could to win, and I stuck with him. Freire showed he is going strong. After tomorrow, I will know more about Sanremo. Given today, I know that I can handle some attacks, like the one of Gasparotto. Overall, it is important to take this jersey home."

Pozzato kept his cards close to his chest while Gasparotto and Cancellara's candles flickered out. He followed on Di Luca's move through the last right hand curve; 'Pippo' was powerful, but not enough to hold off Freire who made the finale. 'Pippo' passed the Tirreno test and looks good to try for a repeat win in Sanremo. "I am going strong but so is everyone else," he confessed. "Petacchi is going, Gasparotto is going, Cancellara is going, Freire is going... Freire is one of the most astute sprinters in the finale. We will see in Sanremo."

Di Luca gained confidence from his week in Tirreno. "I tried, but unfortunately I got third place," 'The Killer' noted. "However, I am content. Maybe I started it too far out and, justifiably so, I was passed by Pozzato and then Freire." The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) permitting, he can use his form to take on the Ardennes Classics in April. "It is a good test for Belgium. I am already at eighty percent here in Tirreno, and to have a second and third place is not bad."

"As they say 'It is better to try, than not to try,'" Gasparotto confirmed of his move to dislodge Cancellara from the race lead. "I tried to win Tirreno, and not the stage, but Fabian was stronger than I. There was no question of cooperation because I would have taken ten seconds for the stage win. For Fabian, it was better that the group caught us."

Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) made the final winning move of 31 riders and has likely earned an air ticket to Belgium. "The finale was very hard. We had the standard break, but when you have do this thing [Castelfidardo - ed.] five times you know how it is going to be at the end," confirmed the 27 year-old. "I have been going hard since the beginning of February, so to make it through Tirreno was definitely an objective. I proved I can ride in the front with these guys. I will have some rest and have a crack at the Ardennes."

How it unfolded

163 riders departed at 11:05 this morning from the Adriatico seaside town of Civitanova Marche under sunny and windy conditions. The peloton stretched out immediately under attacks and counterattacks.

Gerald Ciolek (High Road) and Igor Astarloa (Team Milram) were involved in a small crash, but were able to rejoin the others before the first successful break went. Renaud Dion (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld), Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne), Tristan Valentin (Cofidis), Luis Felipe Laverde (CSF Group Navigare), Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), Juan José Oroz (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Paolo Fornaciari (Lampre), Mauro Da Dalto (Liquigas), Theo Eltink (Rabobank), Maarten Tjallingii (Silence-Lotto), William Frischkorn (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) and Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) flew free at kilometre 25.

The group's advantage shot up to two minutes by kilometre 32, and it hit five minutes by kilometre 62. This was the move of the day and one that would eventually need to be controlled by the teams of the favourites if they were to have a chance. A minor fall by Dion at kilometre 76 signalled the fall of the time gap. The Frenchman rejoined the escape, which had a maximum advantage of 6'22" at kilometre 118, but the work of CSC and then LPR and Liquigas brought the move closer to an end as Castelfidardo peaked on the horizon.

The first rise into the hilltop town gave the riders a taste of what they were in for in the closing four circuits. Bertolini opened the attacks on the third rise of Castelfidardo. Tjallingii also gave it a go in the following circuit, but it was Pablo Lastras' move in the final circuit that presented the last chance for the escapees. Kiryienka and Bertolini joined the Spaniard with three kilometres remaining, but the gruppo was tightening the screws.

Luis Felipe Laverde (CSF Group Navigare) chased behind the trio at 10 seconds. He was caught by the Liquigas and LPR led gruppo, where Daniele Pietropolli and Paolo Savoldelli pushed the rhythm for 'The Killer.' Gasparotto fired his missile at 1300 metres remaining. The Italian, clad in the maglia ciclamino of points leader, was solo before Cancellara closed the door to protect his GC lead. Di Luca led through the last curve and 'Pippo' Pozzato was able to come around, but on the back of the two Italians was Oscar the Cat. The Spaniard used the last 25 metres to take victory and put his name at the top of the list of Sanremo favourites.

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