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Australian team pursuit gold medallist Brett Lancaster won the 1.15km prologue of the Giro d'Italia tonight, posting a time of 1-20.96, which put him 29 hundredths ahead of Matteo Tosatto and 72 hundredths ahead of Tosatto's Fassa Bortolo team leader, Alessandro Petacchi.
Sprinters and pursuiters dominated the top of the leaderboard, with Olaf Pollack, Stuart O'Grady and Jaan Kirsipuu all sat in just behind fellow sprinter Petacchi, while Mark Renshaw, Sergi Escobar and Bradley Wiggins (who was 11th) showed the benefit of their track experience.
But no one made more of their track experience than 25-year-old Lancaster, who lives in Tuscany and has spent the last fortnight training with the Australian track team for this test. The Panaria rider's grip on the maglia rosa is likely to be a short one, however, as there are time bonuses available on the line in Sunday's stage into Tropea, where a hill with 15% slopes in the closing couple of kilometres could derail Petacchi's chances of an early first win.
But Lancaster did have the honour of sharing the prologue podium with recent retiree Mario Cipollini, who paraded down the course after the event in a day-glo pink skinsuit.
Paolo Savoldelli gained a slight psychological advantage over the rest of the overall contenders for the Giro title as he took fourth place on the night. That put him three seconds ahead of defending champion Damiano Cunego (22nd), with Ivan Basso (53rd) another two seconds back, and Gilberto Simoni (97th) another couple of seconds back again.
Several riders commented afterwards that the wind blowing off the Mediterranean had made the short test extremely difficult. Simoni said he felt like he was riding into a wall and expressed disappointment at not getting above 50kph, while Savoldelli said that his slight advantage meant nothing in the long term but did give him a morale boost.
Prologue, Reggio Calabria
1 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Panaria-Navigare les 1.150km in 1.20 (51.75kph)
2 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 0.01
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
4 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel
5 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile 0.02
6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
7 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Crdit Agricole
8 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
9 Sergi Escobar (Spa) Illes Balears
10 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner
11 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Credit Agricole
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