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Following his second victory of the race and his move into the leader's jersey, Danilo Di Luca has said that his objective now will be to help his Liquigas-Bianchi team-mates Stefano Garzelli and Dario Cioni in their quest for overall glory. "I'm happy, I achieved the objective I had predicted for myself," said Di Luca, whose second win came just a few kilometres from his home-town of Spoltore.
"I was hoping to win the stage but I wasn't expecting the maglia rosa. I have to thank the Liquigas-Bianchi team who did a lot of work for me today and who have from the beginning believed in my potential, treating me as a leader." The team's tactics included a day at the front of the race for Briton Charly Wegelius and Vladimir Miholjevic, whose orders were to track race leader Paolo Bettini and disrupt the break's attempts to gain time.
- Euskaltel ended up with a second rider in hospital after a terrible-looking crash yesterday. With Alberto Lopez de Munain still being treated for the injuries he received on stage two, youngster David Lopez went down heavily with T-Mobile's Daniele Nardello about 10km from the finish in L'Aquila. Initial reports that Lopez, who is 24 today (Friday), had immediately abandoned proved premature.
Although he spent several minutes on the ground, he did eventually remount and came in 11 minutes down, guided by team-mate Unai Etxebarria. Lopez, who has performed well above expectations this week, was taken to hospital to have 13 stitches inserted in a leg wound but is expected to start Friday's stage.
- Although Paolo Bettini denied that his presence in yesterday's main break of the stage had anything to do with his wanting to make a point on the back of his stage four relegation from first place, one thing that was certain was that the Italian's presence in the break was not appreciated by some of his companions. Liberty Seguros' Koldo Gil later commented that "we knew that with the Italian in the group we weren't going to get anywhere. The peloton wasn't going to allow a break to stay clear that had the race leader in it. Consequently, instead of there being an agreement to work together (which Bettini was seen to be trying to encourage - Ed.), everyone was tying to get away on their own. I tried on the last pass but didn't make it."
Bettini justified his attack by pointing to the six-second time bonus he picked up in the Intergiro sprint. But, surely he would have been better staying in the main pack and trying for the stage win in L'Aquila, where he would almost undoubtedly have provided a strong challenge to Di Luca, and would perhaps have picked up more bonus seconds, kept his lead, and - who knows? - even won the stage.
- The main contenders for the overall prize were headed yesterday by Ivan Basso, who finished narrowly ahead of Damiano Cunego. "As the attacks were launched on the climb, I had a really good feeling in my legs, and once again it was nice to confirm my great shape," said the CSC team leader, who was prominent in tracking Di Luca up towards the finish. "Usually a short, uphill finish like this is not my cup of tea, so it gives me a lot of confidence to be up front in today's stage. If the climb had been a couple of kilometres longer, the result could've been different. The team did an amazing job for me, and I really feel I'm getting the best support possible, when I have to position myself or if we have to increase the pace."
- The final word on the Bettini/Cooke controversy goes to Martijn Swinkel, president of the race jury that decided to relegate the Italian from first place. "The rules are clear, once the sprint is launched you can't deviate from your line. And deviating is precisely what, progressively, Bettini did," he told La Dernire Heure. "This fault falls under the article that justifies declassification. If the movement had been more sudden and there had been a danger of him putting his adversary in danger then a pure and simple disqualification would have been considered. But there was absolutely no question of that for Bettini.
"Cooke fell because he took a hand off his bars. But the error the Italian made remains. As far as the explanation that Bettini made that he was desperately trying to get his chain onto the smallest sprocket, which made him deviate to the left, that is the classic excuse and is used on almost every occasion like this. It's as if it is the derailleur that is steering the bike."
- Naturino-Sapore di Mare team manager Vincenzo Santoni is set to present the necessary documents to the International Cycling Union to back an application to enter the ProTour next season. The Italian media has said that if the request is turned down it is likely that Naturino will pull their sponsorship from the team.
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