Raffaele Illiano of the Diquigiovanni broken down in tears after winning the second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Thursday. And could blame him, it was his first win for four years and the biggest of his whole career.
The 31 year-old Naples-born rider has been a struggling professional with Gianni Savio?s Selle Italia team since 2002 but is only well known in Senegal after twice winning the prologue of the African stage race.
However he showed he is handy sprinter on the uphill finish in Gubbio after a clever piece of team work by Savio?s team, now called Diquigiovanni.
Illiano got away on the last climb, 20km from the finish with five other riders and the move stayed clear of the bunch thanks to Niklas Axelsson sacrificing his chances for Illiano. In the slightly uphill sprint Illiano jumped first to get the best line round the curving finish, beating Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld). Axelsson was third at three seconds, with Linus Gerdemann (High Road) fourth at nine seconds.
New Italian star Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) was also in the move but was forced to walk over the finish line after being hit from behind by Gerdemann in the sprint. In a perfect Ricco style tantrum, he threw his bike over the line and said he would have won with one leg.
The first group of chasers left things far to late and so finished 32 second behind the break, with Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) bringing them home. Missing from the front group were stage one winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step). They both finished in the main bunch at 8-23, along with Britain’s Roger Hammond and Mark Cavendish (High Road).
Illiano was in tears after taking the most important victory of his seven-year professional career.
?I?m incredibly happy. I?ve been waiting for this for a long time. I?ve only ever won minor races but now I think I?ve earned my place in the professional peloton,? he said.
?I have to thank my wife Angela and my 15-day old son Ivan. They?ve helped me a lot this winter and inspired me to work really hard. I crashed during the first stage and I?ve got five stitches in my right knee but I felt good and so went with the late attack. I didn’t have a team during the winter but fortunately Gianni Savio had faith in me and gave me a place at Diquiqiovanni. Hopefully this pays him back.?
Gasparotto was disappointed not to win the sprint but added the race leader?s blue jersey to the pink jersey he won in the prologue of the Giro d?Italia last year and the red, white and green Italian national champion?s jersey he won in 2005.
?I was suffering with cramp in the final kilometers of the stage and that definitely affected my chances in the sprint. However I?m happy to have the leader?s jersey and will try and keep it for as long as possible,? Gasparotto said.
He will wear the blue leader?s jersey during Friday?s 195km third stage is from Gubbio to Montelupone.
|TIRRENO-ADRIATICO STAGE TWO|
1 Raffaele Illiano (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni 203km in 5hr 01min 10sec
2 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Barloworld
3 Niklas Axelsson (Swe) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni at 3sec
4 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team High Road at 9sec
5 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval at 17sec
6 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Saunier Duval
7 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas at 32sec
8 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre
9 Emanuele Sella (Ita) CSF Group Navigare
10 Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) LPR Brakes all same time
1 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Barloworld 9hr 11min 05sec
2 Niklas Axelsson (Swe) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli at 2sec
3 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team High Road at 6sec
4 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval – Scott at 23sec
5 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Saunier Duval – Scott
6 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes at 36sec
7 Markus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 37sec
8 Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 38sec
9 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Tinkoff Credit Systems
10 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre