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Alessandro Petacchi may still be most people's favourite for Milan San-Remo, the first Classic of the season, a week on Saturday, but Quick Step's main challengers for that title will have to be watched closely if current form is anything to go by. As Tom Boonen was winning an uphill sprint at Paris-Nice, team-mate Paolo Bettini was doing just the same at Tirreno-Adriatico, where Erik Zabel was second for the second day in a row.
Bettini's victory was a close-run thing. Four breakaways went clear after just 18km and coming into the final 1000 metres the last of them, LPR's Daniele Contrini was still 10 seconds clear. Five hundred metres on he was still six seconds head of the pack, just beginning its final charge. Unfortunately for Contrini, that six-second cushion didn't last him until the line, and he was swamped as Bettini hurtled past with 50 riders in pursuit.
Time bonuses on the line enabled Bettini to open his lead over Zabel to eight seconds.
"I can't hide the fact that I am in great shape," said the Olympic champion. "Once again our team was extremely tough today and Pozzato was fantastic during the final. As soon as possible I'm sure I'll be able to pay back Pippo for everything he has done for me these last few days! I'm not thinking about the general classification, I'm taking things on a day-by-day basis. Tomorrow's stage is one that I have already won twice, in 1999 and 2003. We'll have to see if I can make it three!"
Stage 2, Tivoli-Frascati
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 171 km in 4.03.19 (42.17kph)
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
3 Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr) LPR
4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
6 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
7 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
8 Luca Ascani (Ita) Naturino
9 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
10 Christoph Le Mevel (Fra) Crdit Agricole
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 8.11.54
2 Zabel 0.08
3 Khalilov 0.16
5 Ballan 0.20
8 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas
10 Massimiliano Gentili (Ita) Naturino
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