Ooops ... he did it again! Twenty-four hours after scoring the first point in his personal challenge with Mario Cipollini, Fassa Bortolo's Alessandro Petacchi repeated victory in stage two of the sixth "Giro della Provincia di Lucca", covering 173 km. between Massarosa and the seaside resort of Lido di Camaiore in north-western Tuscany.
But this time there was another rider able to make his way between the two main stars of the race: Tuscany's very own Fabrizio Guidi of Team CSC, who managed to beat Super Mario and take an excellent second place in the stage ranking. Worthy of mention are also the good results of young Ukrainian Yuri Mitlushenko, winner of the Italian season opener GP Costa degli Etruschi in early February, and Australian Mark Renshaw, at his third Top 5 finish after two JCTDU's stages in January.
Needless to say, thanks to the time bonuses his second straight win awarded him, the man from La Spezia (better known as Alessandro Petacchi) strengthened his position atop the overall standings.
The aforementioned Guidi was the man the kept some Tuscan taste inside Team CSC, after Andrea Tafi moved from Bjarne Riis' crew to Alessio-Bianchi. And the same Tafi was one of the main protagonists of Wednesday's stage, first as the 37-year-old from Fucecchio bridged the gap to 10-year-younger front-runner Giuliano Sulpizi of Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé, who went clear at the km. 47 mark (after previous attacks from the likes of Palumbo, Pugaci, Secchiari, Da Cruz, Piccoli, Semov and neo-pro Karpatchev, then Palumbo and Da Cruz again with LPR's Aggiano, then from Russian Serguei Lelekin, failed) and later as he remained alone at the front after Sulpizi paid for his previous efforts and got dropped during the second ascent of the Pitoro climb.
When still in a two-man break, "Il Gladiatore" (and Sulpizi) opened a maximum gap of 08'15" over the peloton, but it didn't take long for the peloton to start the chase. The teams taking over the chase were mainly Fassa Bortolo and Tafi's former teammates (just in order to help their fastman Guidi, or maybe also because the guys at CSC didn't appreciate The Gladiator's move to another team ??).
With these two squads riding hard, Tafi's break was doomed. The Tuscan was absorbed by the bunch with some 30k to the line, while climbing Monte Pitoro for the last time, and after he was caught nobody else proved able to break away, such that the stage not surprisingly ended in another massive sprint.
This time it wasn't a two-man affair only: after all the hard work done by his team-mates, it was blatant that also Fabrizio Guidi had something to say. But one more time it was Alessandro Petacchi who had the final say, and even if he let his legs do the talking, and it's something Petacchi is not keen to explicitly admit, his message was more than clear: the man still is the best sprinter around. He's not invincible anyway, and Cipollini, Guidi or anyone else might take revenge in the next races. Perhaps to start in the most coveted one, Milano-San Remo, Italy's most famous classic, coming in no more than three weeks.
The sprint dynamics were explained by the same Petacchi in post-race interviews, when the man admitted that his second victory was more difficult than the first, perhaps because to Cipo's different tactical approach, as Mario let his chief rival start the sprint at the front this time: "I started my own sprint to the finish with 250m to go, as I aimed at anticipating Cipollini, who was staying on Fagnini's wheels, and maybe even slowing down his pace a little. It is possible that Mario wanted to start his sprint behind me, in order to control me better, but when I launched my own sprint I was going very fast, and this must have taken him by surprise, thus making his successive reaction useless".
Today's stage winner spent kind words for his rival anyway: "(Cipollini) still is one of the greats. The time for him to win races will come, and people now criticizing will be praising him. That's just the way thing go, after all".
Talking of himself, Petacchi said that his condition is about the same as last year's in the same period, although he currently needs more uphill training, that his next target will be Tirreno-Adriatico, but he'll also be working on his endurance as part of his Milano-Sanremo build-up. And as for Giro della Provincia di Lucca, the dual stage winner - and 200O overall winner - said he has no doubts that's he's going to surrender the overall leader's blue mantle in the next stages, but added that in his opinion the jersey may move onto the shoulders of one of his team-mates, like Frigo, or even Pozzato if the latter is back to a good condition after his recent flu.
Stage 2 Results - Top 10 Places
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - 04h16’10” (40.510 kph)
2. Fabrizio Guidi (Ita - Team CSC) - s.t.
3. Mario Cipollini (Ita - Domina Vacanze) - s.t.
4. Yuri Mitlushenko (Ukr - Landobouwkrediet-Colnago) - s.t.
5. Mark Renshaw (Aus - FDJeux. com) - s.t.
6. Ivan Fanelli (Ita - Amore & Vita-Beretta) - s.t.
7. Gabriele Balducci (Ita - Saeco) - s.t.
8. Danilo Hondo (Ger - Gerolsteiner) - s.t.
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel - FDJeux.com) - s.t.
10. Bostjan Mervar (Slo - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavè) - s.t.
GC after Stage 2 - Top 10 Places and others
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - 08h40'04"
2. Mario Cipollini (Ita - Domina Vacanze) - at 10"
3. Fabrizio Guidi (Ita - Team CSC) - at 15"
4. Angelo Furlan (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi) - at 17"
5. Gabriele Balducci (Ita - Saeco) - at 21"
6. Danilo Hondo (Ger - Gerolsteiner) - s.t.
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel - FDJeux.com) - s.t.
8. Ivan Fanelli (Ita - Amore & Vita-Beretta) - s.t.
9. Bostjan Mervar (Slo - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavè) - s.t.
10. Zoran Klemencic (Slo - Tenax) - s.t.
...35. Dario Frigo (Ita - Fassa Bortolo)
42. Michele Bartoli (Ita - Team CSC)
48. Danilo Di Luca (Ita - Saeco)
49. Davide Rebellin (Ita - Gerolsteiner)
57. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
60. Pietro Caucchioli (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
78. Filippo Pozzato (Ita - Fassa Bortolo)
136. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Ceramiche Panaria-Margres) - at 01'27"
Tomorrow's third and penultimate stage, from downtown Lucca to Castelvecchio Pascoli, home to one of Italy's greatest poets of all-time, over 176 km. consists of two laps of a 54-km. circuit, followed by 2 laps of another, shorter (34 km.) final circuit. Riders will make 4 climbs of the Salita di Perpoli (570m), a climb of nearly 4 kilometres with an average gradient of 8%. The riders will also face the Colle di Barga (3 times), before finishing on a slight climb (gradient: 4%) into Castelvecchio Pascoli. Do not expect another Petacchi v. Cipo duel for stage victory this time!