Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) let the Giro d'Italia peloton know he's still a force to be reckoned with on sprint stages as the 37-year-old Italian triumphed in Parma. Petacchi edged Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) in the field sprint finale, with Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF Inox) rounding out the top three after 244km in the saddle.
Cavendish, however, was irate with Petacchi as they crossed the finish line and angrily gesticulated his arm at the Italian. The Manxman felt that Petacchi didn't hold his line in the final 200m, but the race jury upheld the finishing order.
Petacchi dismissed Cavendish's complaints that he changed direction three times during the sprint.
"I don't think I did anything wrong in the sprint. When you see someone coming up you go looking for him and I moved a bit, but I didn't do anything wrong. But I apologise if I did," Petacchi said.
"To be honest, the only thing that I noticed is that when I saw him coming up before the sprint, I let him pass along the barriers. I could have closed the door but I didn't."
The record books show that this was Petacchi's 22nd Giro stage victory but he insisted this was his 27th win.
"They took five wins off me in 2007 (when he later tested positive for an excessive use of asthma medication). But I won them, so I count them. This win is for my son (Alessandro Junior). It's his third birthday on Tuesday and I'm sure he was watching me sprint today.
"I also want to thank Danilo Hondo. He's a great pro and showed it again. He's got an extra gear in the lead-outs."
While Cavendish missed out on the stage win, he was rewarded with the maglia rosa as the Manxman took over the general classification lead from HTC-Highroad teammate Marco Pinotti. Cavendish began the day tied on time with Pinotti following their triumph in stage one's team time trial and time bonuses at the finish line moved him into the overall lead. Cavendish now leads teammates Kanstantsin Sivtsov and Craig Lewis, second and third respecively overall, by 12 seconds. Pinotti drops to fourth, also 12 seconds off the pace.
Talking on Italian television after the stage, Cavendish insisted he was happy to have pulled on the maglia rosa but was not happy with the way Petacchi changed his line in the sprint.
"I'm happy to have the maglia rosa after a hard stage for the team. Petacchi is a good guy but in the last 200 metres he moved three times. The judges usually relegate someone when they do that."
Petacchi and Cavendish shook hands but Petacchi insisted he hadn't done anything wrong.
"I don't understand what I've done wrong," Petacchi said. "I went on the left and he went on the right. I moved slightly but he wasn't next to me. I didn't put him into the barriers because I was ahead of him."
Lang goes long
The man of the day, however, was Sebastian Lang of Omega Pharma-Lotto as the German time trial specialist took off on a lengthy solo break on the longest stage of this year's race. Lang attacked after only three kilometres and on this sunny, warm day built up a lead of nearly 20 minutes.
Lang, 31, came into the second stage only 22 seconds behind maglia rosa wearer Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad), but the peloton was happy enough to let him go and took it a bit easy on the day's 244km trek.
Inevitably, though, the hours of solitary effort in the race lead wore on the German as the peloton ground its way in pursuit. With 50km to go, the gap had dropped to approximately four minutes.
Pinotti flatted just before the day's only intermediate sprint, but was easily able to catch back up. Lang crossed the sprint line in Salsomaggiore Terme first, with Wouter Weylandt (Leopard Trek) and Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto) battling it out over the bonus seconds for second and third.
The gap continued to come down as Lang and the field took on the day's only climb, a category four ascent at Tabiano Castello with 33.6km remaining. The German crested the summit with a 1:32 advantage over the peloton and for his efforts would claim the mountains classification lead.
At this point Lang simply wanted his extended solo jaunt to come to an end as he soft-pedaled and tried to shake the cramps out of his legs. That end came with 26.2km to go, after the Omega Pharma-Lotto German had tallied 215km on his own.
Final push to Parma
Immediately after Lang's capture, Leonardo Giordani (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) launched an attack and was soon joined by Michal Golas (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto). A few minutes later Ruggero Marzoli (Acqua & Sapone), Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step), Daniele Righi (Lampre-ISD), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) and Ivan Rovny (RadioShack) bridged to the lead trio to form an eight-man escape.
The break pushed out a lead of 30 seconds, but were no match for a peloton hungry for a field sprint finale to the day's action. Vorganov crashed out of the break with 10km remaining which seemed to disrupt their rhythm, and the catch was made with 8.3km to go.
Various sprinters' teams contributed to the pace-making until the Garmin-Cervélo squad took the reins 1.5km from the finish line. The US team's sprinter, Tyler Farrar, was positioned behind three teammates with Brazil's Murilo Fischer, in his national champion's jersey, tasked as the final lead-out rider.
As the peloton took a sweeping right hand turn with 700m to go, Lampre-ISD overtook Garmin-Cervélo at the head of the peloton with Alessandro Petacchi glued to the wheel of his German lead-out man Danilo Hondo.
HTC-Highroad's Mark Renshaw soon passed the Lampre-ISD duo with teammate Mark Cavendish in tow setting up the drag race to the line from 200m out. As Renshaw completed his lead-out of Cavendish, Petacchi jumped to the right to pass Cavendish and a fading Renshaw. Cavendish accelerated to the left and closed on Petacchi but fell several centimetres shy of topping the Italian at the finish.