One more victory for the Domina Vacanze-Elitron team, and one more time coming from a rider different than Cipo: Russian Alexander Kolobnev took the second stage of the "Coppi&Bartali" International Week, from Riccione to Giampaolo Mondini's hometown of Faenza over 244 km, encompassing five ascents, including the two-time climb Trebbio.
The East-european, who earned his first victory in his econd year as a professional rider, won a small bunch sprint ahead of Italians Mirko Celestino (Saeco) and Franco Pellizotti (Alessio). The small bunch including Marco Pantani came in 40" behind the winner.
But quite surprisngly, it was the Mercatone Uno boys setting the pace on some of the climbs, while Basso were getting dropped and Danilo Di Luca was abandoning the race. But later a breakaway group of nine formed, containing - among others - red hot favourite Francesco Casagrande, Mirko Celestino, Domina Vacanze youngsters Michele Scarponi and Kolobnev, plus Pellizotti and Yaroslav Popovych.
In the end it was Kolobnev claiming the stage and Milan-San Remo runner-up Mirko Celestino of Saeco taking over the leader's jersey.
If you want to know more about how it all unfolded, just read what stage winner Alexandr Kolobnev, who will be 22 in early May, said in post-race interviews: "I'm very happy with this victory. I was really eager for that. I have to thank Scarponi who helped me a lot. I made the selection in the Casale climb, and gained a few seconds on the descent as well. But also the peloton behind went fast and many riders joined me. We worked well together. The first to make his move in the final sprint was Celestino, I stayed on his wheels as I knew he was in form, and with 30 m. left I gave everything I can, and finally got my first win as a professional rider".
More words from today's stage winner, who comes from the Russian town of Vyksa and was part of his country's National team at the Zolder Worlds, where he ranked 153rd in the Elite Men Road Race, finishing 03'38" behind his (usual) team-mate Mario Cipollini: "I dedicate this victory to my mother Ljuba, who yesterday mailed me a message saying that I was going to win today, and Team Manager Pino Petito who has stood beside me all through this period".
Stage 2 (Riccione-Faenza 244 km.) - Top 10 Places
1. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus – Domina Vacanze-Elitron) – 06h36’30”
2. Mirko Celestino (Ita - Saeco) – s.t.
3. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio) – s.t
4. Francesco Casagrande (Ita - Lampre) – s.t
5. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr – Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) – s.t
6. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita - Panaria-Fiordo) - s.t.
7. Angelo Lopeboselli (Ita - Cofidis) - s.t.
8. Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro - Alessio) - s.t.
9. Michele Scarponi (Ita - Domina Vacanze-Elitron) - at 04"
10. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit - Lampre) - at 42"
Overall Standings after Stage 2 - Top 11 Places
1. Mirko Celestino (Ita - Saeco) - 08h39'13"
2. Francesco Casagrande (Ita - Lampre) - at 04"
3. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) - at 08"
4. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus – Domina Vacanze-Elitron) - at s.t.
5. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio) - at 12"
6. Angelo Lopeboselli (Ita - Cofidis) - at 14"
7. Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro - Alessio) - at 16"
8. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 20"
9. Michele Scarponi (Ita - Domina Vacanze-Elitron) - at 22"
10. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit - Lampre) - at 46"
11. Marco Pantani (Ita - Mercatone Uno-Scanavino) - at 54"