Paolo "Il Grillo" Bettini takes a second consecutive win, flying to a convincing win on the uphill finish in Frascati, ahead of Erik Zabel and Mikhaylo Khailov, as a lone breakaway is caught in sight of the finish line.
Attacking his fellow breakaways over the final mountain prime with 8km to go, Daniele Contrini (Team LPR) looked set for a brilliant and audacious lone victory. However, though leading by ten seconds under the flame rouge, Milram and Quick Step managed to haul him back just several hundred metres from glory. On another uphill finish, Paolo Bettini defended his lead in the best possible manner: by winning again. He comfortably distanced closest challengers Erik Zabel (who again had to settle for second best) and Ukrainian Team LPR fast man Mikhaylo Khailov.
Bettini celebrates his second win in as many days photo c.
After several unsuccessful early attacks, the break of the day went away after just eighteen kilometres of the 171km course from Tivoli to Frascati, consisting of Giampaolo Cheula (Team Barloworld-Valsir), Daniele Contrini (Team LPR), Jimmy Casper (Cofidis) and Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Casper, on paper the fastest man in the group, led through the first intermediate sprint at Subiaco, with the group already holding a healthy 4’32” lead over the pack.
"Nobody said there'd be cobbles in Italy!" c. Fotoreporter
Cheula then took the mountain points after 59km, on the Altipiani di Arcinazzo, in front of Contrini and Perez, the escape having gained another minute on the pack. At this point, the peloton were casual enough to allow second year pro Valerio Agnoli (Naturino-Sapore di Mare) a bit of leeway to see his parents in Fiuggi – barely 20km from his birthplace, in the town of Alatri. Over the next hour or so, the breakaway’s advantage peaked at around seven minutes.
It's all Oakley-dokey for Discovery c. Fotoreporter
While the gap was slowly being whittled down, there was a crash in the bunch (with 70km to go) – Danilo di Luca and Stefano Garzelli were among those involved. On a descent, Team CSC’s Stuart O’Grady also crashed, breaking five ribs and his collarbone. Though the Danish team are optimistic for a recovery within a month, it’s likely that this incident will compromise O’Grady’s chances in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Team CSC doctor Joost de Maeseneer said: "If we are optimistic, he could be ready in four weeks, and since it's not so complicated, he might be able to resume his training in a couple of weeks." Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile) also hit the deck today, though was able to ride to the finish.
A dazed and battered Stuart O'Grady after his crash, his Spring Classic plans in jeopardy c. Fotoreporter
With Tirreno-Adriatico always considered much more of a happy hunting ground for the sport’s top sprinters, it is always going to be tough for an escape to stay away. Nonetheless, Daniele Contrini (Team LPR) took things into his own hands with fifteen kilometres and a climb before the finish, and soloed away from his flagging companions, who were reeled in and then spat out by the bunch on the ascent itself. At the top of the climb, with 8km to go, Contrini still had twenty seconds in hand over the best of the bunch, Signors Moletta and Caruso.
Like wine, Daniele Contrini seems to be getting better with age: he enjoyed his best season last year, winning the French Cup race Route Adelie and a stage of the Tour of Picardy. Having turned pro in 1995 with Brescialat, in the same team as notably Eric Vanderaerden, Francesco Casagrande and Mariano Piccoli, Contrini is one of the steadying forces of Team LPR, an experienced hand in a predominantly young and promising team.
Alas, it was not to be for the gutsy 31 year old. Despite going through two kilometres to go with an advantage of sixteen seconds and then going under the red flag with ten in hand, once the Milram and Quick Step missile launchers, preparing to shoot Zabel and Bettini into the action, had him in their crosshairs, he was always going to be reprised. Only four hundred metres from the line, after spending the majority of the day out in front, Contrini was heartbreakingly passed by the bunch. On a less steep finish than the previous day, Paolo Bettini had no problems rocketing to his fourth win of the season, ahead of the hapless Zabel, who took his eighth (!) second place this year, and Khailov.
Quick Step certainly doen't waste any time: the formiddable duo of Boonen and Bettini have now shared five ProTour stage wins in the space of a week. Their opponents will be hoping this purple patch ends before Milan-San Remo.
Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 1 - Tivoli - Frascati 171km
1. Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic, Ita) 4h 03m 19s
2. Erik Zabel (Milram, Ger) at same time
3. Mikhaylo Khailov (Team LPR, Rus) s.t.
4. Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital, Ita) s.t.
5. Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole, Nor) s.t.
6. Rinaldo Nocentini (Acqua & Sapone, Ita) s.t.
7. Oscar Freire (Rabobank, Spa) s.t.
8. Luca Ascani (Naturino-Sapore di Mare, Ita) s.t.
9. Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner, Ita) s.t.
10. Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole, Fra) s.t.
General Classification after Stage 2
1. Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic) 8h 11m 54s
2. Erik Zabel (Milram) 0'08"
3. Mikhaylo Khailov (Team LPR) 0'16"
4. Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) s.t.
5. Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) 0'20"
6. Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) s.t.
7. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) s.t.
8. Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas) s.t.
9. Rinaldo Nocentini (Acqua & Sapone) s.t.
10. Massimiliano Gentili (Naturino-Sapore di Mare) s.t.
Full results to come.