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Two road stages into this year's Giro d'Italia and Alessandro Petacchi is still without a win having been denied for a second day in a row by a rider returning to their top level after an illness-hit spring. After Paolo Bettini give Italy a home win yesterday, Australia were back in the winning frame today thanks to Robbie McEwen, who took the seventh Giro stage win of his career at a frantic finish in Santa Maria del Cedro.
As they did yesterday, the Fassa Bortolo team produced another sterling effort to set up Petacchi for a final dash at the line, but were once again foiled by unforeseen events in the final kilometre. This time there was no late hill on which anyone could escape in Bettini-like fashion. It was more a case of too many other teams and sprint contenders confusing Fassa's best-laid plans.
There was a huge battle behind the Fassa line coming into the final stages as riders tried to get on Petacchi's wheel, and all kinds of riders were pressing coming into the last kilometre. Ivan Quaranta tried to attack from a long way out and got nowhere. Then, as Petacchi was being set up by Marco Velo, Jaan Kirsipuu shot by with McEwen on his wheel.
Kirsipuu's move trapped Petacchi against the barriers just when he needed to be engaging top gear. As Petacchi tried to get out of trouble, McEwen waited for the right moment to jump past the Estonian and make his own winning dash for the line. Illes Balears Isaac Galvez and Gerolsteiner's Robert Forster took the next two places, denying Petacchi any bonus seconds and giving McEwen a fairly comfortable lead to carry into tomorrow's stage in the maglia rosa. All of the leading contenders finished safely in the pack behind McEwen.
A little earlier in the day, about 50 kilometres from the finish, Euskaltel's Alberto Lopez de Munain appeared to suffer serious injury when he hit the roadside crash barrier headfirst after touching wheels with a rider in front of him. The Basque rider received immediate medical attention on the road and was fitted with a neck collar before being carried into an ambulance.
He did move his right arm and leg before being taken away, and initial reports suggest that he has two broken ribs and a punctured lung, and may also have broken collar-bone. Euskaltel team manager Miguel Madariaga said that Lopez de Munain was unconscious for five or six minutes after the crash, but came round on the way to hospital and was able to speak to those treating him.
Stage 2, Catanzaro Lido-Santa Maria del Cedro
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 178km in 4.34.47 (38.87kph)
2 Isaac Galvez (Spa) Illes Balears
3 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
4 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
5 Baden Cooke (Aus) Francaise des Jeux
6 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval
7 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
8 Steven de Jongh (Hol) Rabobank
9 Paride Grillo (Ita) Panaria
10 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 9.45.14
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 0.08
3 Petacchi 0.22
4 Galvez 0.27
5 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.30
6 Marco Velo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 0.33
7 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
8 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step
9 Baden Cooke (Aus) Francaise des Jeux
10 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
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