Faenza is a place that definitely brings good luck to the Saeco team. Ten months after Gilberto Simoni made a decisive step towards his second Giro d'Italia win when he launched that surprise attack in the Tour of Italy stage finishing there, and captured the overall leader's mantle he late took all the way ot the Milan podium, the same town in the Romagna area of Italy saw another red-clad talent, Mirko Celestino, clinch victory in Stage 2 of the "Settimana Internazionale Coppi&Bartali", finishing into town after a 206 km. journey that got underway in the coastal city of Riccione.
The Italian rider was the fastest in a 12-man sprint in front of Ruggero Marzoli (Acqua&Sapone-Caffé Mokambo) and Neapolitan Giuliano Figueras (Panaria-Margres), and assumed the overall leadership of the same event that saw him as overall winner in the previous edition.
The second leg of the Italian race was a demanding and hard-fought one, first marked by the 116-km. solo break of Daniele Contrini of the newly-formed team LPR-Piacenza Management, wishing to show the Giro d'Italia organizers that they made a mistake in not giving the team a "wild card" for the upcoming edition of the Corsa Rosa.
But the 29-year-old Lombard was brought back, and in the last lap of the final circuit (circuito del Trebbio), while climbing the same Trebbio ascent, a group of 10 riders launched the final decisive attack, with another Saecoman, Simoni's #1 domestique Leonardo Bertagnolli, starting the fireworks. Celestino and a few others joined the break later, with some 20k to the line, and the man from Liguria region of Italy (even if he's headquartered in the outskirts of Bergamo) confortably pipped Marzoli and Figueras on the line. The bunch lost plenty of the time to the break such that, even with no less than three stages to go, the overall victory seems to be a matter of a few riders only.
“I am very happy -Celestino confessed in post-stage interviews- as I was in a great condition after Milan-Sanremo, and very hungry for redemption. I'll defend my lead for sure, although winning this stage race is an important objective, but definitely not the only one in a season that I hope may give me plenty of satisfactions.”
Hopefully to start (or continue) with the Tour of Flanders and other Spring Classics like Amstel Gold race or Fleche Wallonne, races that Celestino is certainly eyeing.
But if today's winner is happy, the other side of the coin is Giuliano Figueras' disappointment. The Panaria team leader came close to take the stage, but eventually lost even the runner-up spot to Marzoli "I have enough of getting compliments and good placings only. I want to win. I started my sprint too ealry and was hampered by the wind today, but I'll try and win this race anyway".
And Figueras may start having his words backed by facts in tomorrow's third stage, from Finale Emilia to Scandiano over 175.5 kms.
Stage 2 (Riccione-Faenza, 206 km.): Top 10 Places
1. Mirko Celestino (Ita - Saeco) - 06h07’14’’
2. Ruggero Marzoli (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) - s.t.
3. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - s.t.
4. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi) - s.t.
5. Giuseppe Muraglia (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavè) - s.t.
6. Alexander Kolobnev (Rus - Domina Vacanze) - s.t.
7. Michele Scarponi (Ita - Domina Vacanze) - s.t.
8. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) - s.t.
9. Kirylo Pospyeyev (Ukr - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) - s.t.
10. Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita - Saeco) - s.t.
GC after Stage 2: Top 10 Places
1. Mirko Celestino (Ita - Saeco) - 08h28’31’’
2. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - at 05’’
3. Leonardo Bertagnoli (Ita - Saeco) - at 10’’
4. Andrea Noè (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi) - at 11’’
5. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi) - s.t.
6. Massimiliano Gentili (Ita - Domina Vacanze) - at 14’’
7. Luca Mazzanti (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - s.t.
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita - Domina Vacanze) - s.t.
9. Alexander Kolobnev (Rus - Domina Vacanze) - s.t.
10. Ruggero Marzoli (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) - at 17’’