Italian Riccardo Ricco of the Saunier Duval team threw down the gauntlet to his rivals for the Giro d'Italia's pink jersey by sprinting to victory in the second stage into Agrigento Sunday.
Liquigas rider Franco Pellizotti took the race lead from American Christian Vandevelde of Slipstream, who had led his team towards victory in the opening stage's team time trial.
Vandevelde, who on Saturday became the first American to wear the pink jersey since Andy Hampsten won the 1988 Giro, was left trailing on the climb leading to the finish line of the 207km stage which crossed from north to southern Sicily.
The American is now one second behind the Italian with Denmark's Chris Sorensen third overall, seven seconds behind.
Ricco came into this race proclaiming his ambition to win the 'maglia rosa', and gave reigning champion Danilo Di Luca, Davide Rebellin and Pellizotti an indication of his determination with a tactically astute finish.
He upped the tempo to close the gap on Joaquim Rodriguez around 50 metres from the finish after the Spanish champion had attacked with one kilometre to go, at the steepest part of the closing climb.
It was Ricco's second stage win in the three-week race, having claimed victory on the prestigious stage at Trois Cimes de Lavaredo last year, when he finished sixth overall.
Di Luca, of LPR, finished second with Gerolsteiner all-rounder Rebellin in third.
Earlier in the race Slipstream's David Zabriskie was forced out of the Giro after a crash near a level crossing with around 60km to race. Spaniard Alberto Contador, Italian Enrico Gasparotto and Austria's Christian Pfannberger were also caught up in the crash but organisers said that all three riders managed to rejoin the race.
Zabriskie, a former wearer of the Tour de France yellow jersey in 2005, was taken to hospital to undergo tests, where it was determined a fractured lumbar vertebra forced him out of the race for good. The 29-year-old from Salt Lake City was among a bunch of riders when he came crashing down near a level crossing around 60km from the finish line of the 207km race.
Pellizotti pulled on the pink jersey for the first time and will spend at least a day in the race lead during Monday's third stage, the last in Sicily, over 221km from Catania to Milazzo.
For more photos and an updated race report, visit Cyclingnews.com.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008