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Fassa Nation - Stage 1 Giro d'Italia
By Podofdonny
Date: 5/9/2004
Fassa Nation - Stage 1 Giro d'Italia

Blue skies dotted with wisps of white clouds, colourful jerseys and intriguing racing. Is the Giro d'Italia the most beautiful race in the world? Quite possibly.

They do tend to do things with a little more style and passion in Italy. So it was no real surprise that the only categorised climb of the day, the Colle Di Cadibona, signalled the start of the uphill rather than the finish.

As those who have watched recent Classic races will have noted, Gerolsteiner do tend to race to win. Fabian Wegmann popped off the front to claim the points for the KOM prize and shortly after, Marlon Alirio Perez Arango (Colombia-Selle Italia), noting that the road continued upwards, launched himself on a long solo attack which was not entirely fruitless (he was rewarded with the inter-giro jersey at the end of the day).

At this point Magnus Backstedt decided it was time to drop off the peloton and engage in a lengthy discussion with his bemused mechanic. Eventually and reluctantly he received a new rear wheel (which is pretty ironic when your main sponsor is a wheel manufacturer). Mechanical fault? Maybe, then again Alessio may have decided their best chance of TV coverage for the day was to see the big Swede charge back to the peloton through the flotilla of cars and motor bikes with consummate ease - either that or he is a preparing a "commute to work - the right way video".

Meanwhile, heroic Marlon Alirio Perez Arango had now gained 2'44'' on the peloton which started to react. A string of riders set out in earnest pursuit and the shock waves filtered back to the main bunch. A touch of wheels? Several riders went down and the peloton was split. Freddy Bichot (FdJ) seemed to come off worse with a grazed left elbow and a crash hat that had definitely been in the wars. Also down was Australian Scott Davis (Ceramiche Panaria); the fact that there is a record number of Australians in the race (ten) would have been little consolation to him at this point.

Such events had left the race spread across the Italian countryside and was not to Fassa Bortolo chief Giancarlo Ferretti's liking. Accordingly, the "Silver team" moved into action to bring the race under contol.

With five Fassa men leading the main peloton and three Fassa men leading the charge to regroup, I began to wonder if Ferretti's masterplan had been to have a team of 18 riders. Still, order was restored and Marlon Alirio Perez Arango was allowed the first circuit of three before he was inevitably caught and the sprinters began to flex their muscles.

Robbie McEwen was first to strike for home and once again proved that he is to straight sprinting what Mario Cipollini is to mountain climbing. Had he kept his bike in a straight line he could have had a shower, three course meal and press conference before anyone else had crossed the line. A one legged kangeroo after six pints of Fosters would have had more sense of direction. As it was, he swerved to the left across the field and put off the most experienced man in contention. Mario Cipollini seemed to lose heart and as McEwen started to fade, Alessandro Petacchi moved up a gear, in fact several gears.

As Petacchi crossed the line, he had time to send the usual semaphore message back to his family asking them to set the video and open his mail. Meanwhile, judging by the number of Fassa riders celebrating as they crossed the line, it looked like Ferretti had added a few more to the team on the final circuit, giving a total strength of 23.

In the slipstream of Petacchi more drama unfurled. Olaf Pollack (Gerolsteiner) stole in to take the Pink, and Crescenzo D'Amore (Acqua & Sapone) continued his good season with an excellent third place.

Freddy Bichot managed to hold onto the rear of the peloton, his helmet flapping and his arm looking more painful by the minute.

Davide "Trebellin" lost 8 seconds and the Misses were pretty in Pink.

All in all a good day at the races. Tomorrow should be for the sprinters again. Now it's all very well every one predicting that you will win....

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