Shorts: Liberty, Chicchi, Rabobank

Liberty pin their hopes in "excessive" Giro on three riders, Quick Step take their 23rd win of the s

Liberty pin their hopes in "excessive" Giro on three riders, Quick Step take their 23rd win of the s

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Liberty Seguros are going into the Giro d'Italia, which starts in the Belgian town of Seraing on Saturday, with their hopes pinned on Michele Scarponi, Unai Osa and Giampaolo Caruso, with Osa tipped as their best prospect for a podium finish. After Liberty's arrival in Lige, team director Marino Lejarreta described the Giro as "excessive" and as having "a terribly hard last week".

Lejarreta added: "It's going to be an interesting race, quite open, and breakaways could prove important. Although it is hard to say exactly until the race starts, it does seem the route is excessive. We don't need to do stages like 17 [to Plan de Corones], with a finish in a ski resort and ramps of 25 per cent that could present technical problems for the riders."

- Quick Step sprinter Francesco Chicchi won Wednesday's opening stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk, beating Fred Rodriguez and Thor Hushovd in the bunch finish in Gravelines. "Today I was supposed to be the Wouter Weylandt's 'pilot', but in the final kilometre Wouter lost my wheel, so I decided to do the sprint myself," said a happy Chicchi. "I moved to the left side of the road and took the wheel of team-mate Steven de Jongh, only thinking about doing all I could to win."

The 25-year-old Italian took the first pink leader's jersey of the race. "It's the same colour as the Giro's leader's jersey. Who knows, this could be a good sign for our guys at Saturday's Giro," added Chicchi, who now has two wins this season while his team's total is up to 23.

- According to reports in the Dutch press, Rabobank will go into the Tour de France with ambitions on all three major jerseys. Their main overall contender will be 2005 Vuelta winner Denis Menchov, Michael Rasmussen will aim to defend his King of the Mountains title, while Oscar Freire will be targeting the green points jersey. The team is also set to feature three strong breakaway candidates in Juan Antonio Flecha, Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker, all past Tour stage winners. The precocious Thomas Dekker is also likely to start, while Joost Posthuma and Peter Weening are also in contention.

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