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Danilo Di Luca took his second stage win in three days when he, just as predicted, proved the quickest at the end of the long drag up into L'Aquila. The Liquigas-Bianchi rider was beautifully set up by his team-mates, who gradually clawed back a long-range break on the road up towards the finish, leaving Di Luca with what was ultimately the rather simple job of catching and passing Marzio Bruseghin after the Fassa Bortolo rider had led out the sprint.
Although race leader Paolo Bettini picked up six bonus seconds after getting into the main break of the day and finished in a 50-strong group that came in two seconds down on Di Luca and Bruseghin, it was not enough to keep the Quick Step rider in the maglia rosa. The 20-second bonus Di Luca gained gave him the lead by just three seconds from Bettini. All of the main contenders for the overall title were in that main group with Bettini, with Ivan Basso and Damiano Cunego well to the front of it.
Bettini, who poured his champagne straight onto the road and refused to celebrate on the podium yesterday when presented with the leader's jersey in protest at his disqualification from the stage win, seemed intent in making his chagrin as obvious as possible. He signed on last, left the start after everyone else, and then got himself into the main break of the day. This started out with 21 riders, but was reduced to nine on the first-cat Monte Urano climb with 60km left, with Britain's Charly Wegelius among them acting as Di Luca's point man.
The break split apart again on the next climb, where Saunier Duval's Joaquin Rodriguez went clear. The Spaniard was caught and passed by four of his erstwhile companions 20km from home as the bunch closed in under Liquigas' impetus, and the last of this quartet to be picked up was Ivan Parra (Selle Italia-Colombia), who stayed out on his own until 4km from the line.
All eyes were on Di Luca and his Liquigas team coming into the final kilometre. After Saunier's Francisco Ventoso, and then T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler and Domina Vacanze's Alexandr Kolobnev attempted long-range attacks, Di Luca sat at the head of the following pack, with Basso, Cunego, Bettini and many others tracking him closely. But when Bruseghin jumped to the right-hand side of the road and Di Luca responded, no one else got close. From there it was like Amstel Gold and Flche Wallonne all over again, as Di Luca signalled his second win and was wrapped in a teary hug by his mamma.
Di Luca should keep the lead tomorrow on a stage that has sprint written all over it. Just 153km long, the first two-thirds is lumpy, but the last 40km are pan flat and we can expect to see the Fassa Bortolo train going at full power into Marina di Grosseto.
Stage 5, Celano-L'Aquila
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 223km in 6.01.18 (37.03kph)
2 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
3 Mauricio Ardila (Col) Davitamon-Lotto 0.02
4 Bjoern Leukemans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
6 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
7 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
8 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel
9 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Crdit Agricole
10 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Panaria
41 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel
136 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Crdit Agricole 3.00
141 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas-Bianchi 4.46
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 26.20.55
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 0.03
3 Mazzanti 0.25
4 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.28
5 Cunego 0.30
6 Garzelli 0.36
7 Ardila 0.37
8 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros 0.41
9 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze 0.46
10 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
11 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze
12 Basso 0.49
13 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel
41 Danielson 2.02
113 Wiggins 11.15
132 Wegelius 14.49
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