No need to ask. Alessandro Petacchi
was the fastest again. But only off the bike this time. Sunday's biggest loser quickly dismissed any criticism of his leadout machine by Italian journalists, and put the blame on himself as well as the parcours (whose final straight was not appropriate to his skills). "Don't tell my teammates weren't up to the task" the man told the press before they could even say a word, adding that "I just wanna thank my team, they did an excellent job. Perhaps it was just my mistake. I should have stayed on someone else's wheel to come out later and try to anticipate the sprint. But unfortunately today's wasn't the kind of finish that suits me: the road was tilting upwards, and this kept us from achieving the (high) speed I'm comfortable with, whereas I'm not that good in low(er) speed finishes. The gradient and the speed around 50 kph ware the reasons why I didn't make a move with 200m to go. Plus, with McEwen on my wheel, launching my sprint there would have been like giving him a good leadout. So I basically started my sprint ... when crossing the line. I hesitated a little too long, and my rivals were good at anticipating me in the last metres, but this is what I would have done if I was in their shoes after all. That's the way sprinting is, you know. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. My condition is good anyway, and I'm sure I'll be given more opportunities (to get the win) in days to come".
On with the other side of the coin: talking to the press after his umpteenth winning sprint, Robbie McEwen said that every top fastman has got his "strong points". Tom Boonen is the strongest in the Classics and hard races often coming down to small(er) bunch sprints, while Petacchi is the king when it's all about sprinting fast in long final straights. And when it comes to the rest, well ... there's always a certain Robbie McEwen. A certain Robbie McEwen whose season tally might be similar to the World Champion's and AleJet's, if it wasn't for the rib he broke in March, forcing him out of the saddle for some time. But the same Aussie sprinting superstar also confessed that, regardless of such accident, at this stage of the season he's exactly where he wanted to be, according to his winter plans: on the podium. Courtesy of today's success, but also of the one he recently got at Tour de Romandie. So the man has got nothing to regret, nothing to complain for.
"Basically it was a quiet day" Maglia Rosa keeper Paolo Savoldelli said in the post-race press conference, "we knew that it all was going to end in a bunch sprint. But after looking at the map, I thought the last part of the stage was less tricky than it eventually proved; in fact we had to be careful in some late descents, due to both the fast pace and some dangerous turns, which the riders up front had a easy time taking, but the others didn't. Furthermore, as usual, many riders have good legs in the opening days and are hungry to stay at the front of the peloton, making it all even more dangerous. To ride comfortably in the middle of the bunch with three, four teammates around is impossible though, so Ekimov, and later Padrnos, helped me move to the front, and remained there until about 4k from the finish, when it was the turn of the riders going for stage victory to move to the front. Riders ready to take (excessive) risks, something I was not that eager to today. All I wanted was just to stay up front".
Speaking of tomorrow's leg, and the first (slightly) uphill finish, with the potential to make some gaps, the reigning champion of the Giro said he hopes he can cross the line with the first ones, though he's not sure whether the twenty-second time bonus reserved for the winner would be enough for that guy to steal the jersey from Paolo's shoulders or not. The Discovery Channel Italian also stated that tackling the final section at the front of the peloton might prove even harder, and more crucial, than climbing well the last ascent, because at this stage of the race, with most if not all teams having their GC threats obviously still in contention, and the road being large at the start of the climb but quickly getting narrower (such that, as The Falcon admitted "if you found someone in a poor form on your way, you would just have to slow your pace and lose some precious seconds. Okay, you might always put in some extra efforts and close down the gap before you reach the line, but it's always better to avoid similar risks"), all of them will be trying to stay up front.