Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) won his fourth stage of the 2007 Giro with one of the longest sprints of his career.
A crash in the final corner, 550 metres from the finish, disrupted the sprint and Petacchi found himself on the front. After struggling to change gear, he powered towards the line with Argentina?s Ariel Richeze (Panaria) on his wheel. He started to tie-up and fade but kept going and won the sprint ahead of Richeze. Matt Breschel (CSC) finished third with the other riders just behind.
?It was probably the longest sprint of my life,? Petacchi said as he tried to catch his breath after the sprint.
?It was an incredible effort and I didn?t put my arms up to celebrate because I didn?t have any energy left. I went really, really early and the sprint was even harder because the road rose slightly. It was very, very hard but I went deep and just hung to win,?
Four riders crashed in the final corner after Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r) went too fast and lost control of his bike. Petacchi had an inside line but avoided the crash.
?I don?t understand why riders dive into corners,? Petacchi said.
?They think they have to win the sprint to the corner but lots of times they make mistakes and crash. I eased a bit before the corner and managed to stay up. I have to thank my team mates yet again for this win. There aren?t many of them let in the race and so it?s difficult to control the race but winning the sprints pays us back for everything we?ve done so far in the Giro.?
While speaking about his stage win Petacchi was told that Erik Zabel had won the second stage of the Bayern-Rundfahrt race in Germany. He was not afraid to defend his disgraced team mate.
?I?m happy that Zabel has won,? Petacchi said.
?We all know what has happened in Germany. If Erik confessed some thing from more than ten years ago it was because he wanted to. I think cycling has changed a lot since 1996 and Zabel won a lot afterwards when there were a lot of controls. I don?t think anyone can doubt Erik?s class.?
Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) finished in the peloton and so retained the overall race lead. Andy Schleck (CSC) is second at 2-24 and Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) third at 2-28.
Britain?s Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) retired from the Giro during the stage after starting with a high temperature. He tried to hang on but the fast start put him in trouble and he eventually climbed off after 58km.
Friday?s 179km 19th stage is from Treviso to Terme di Comano near Lake Garda. The final section includes several climbs north of Lake Garda and so suits a breakaway attempt.
GIRO D’ITALIA: STAGE 18 RESULTS
1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Milram 208km in 4-32-51
2 Maximillian Richeze (Arg) Panaria
3 Matti Breschel (Den) CSC
4 Thomas Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner
5 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Gerolsteiner
6 Nikolai Trussov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems
7 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
8 Stefano Zanini (Ita) Predictor Lotto
9 Julian Dean (Nzl) Credit Agricole
10 Hérve Duclos-Lassalle (Fra) Cofidis all at st
91 Steven Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel at st
Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas DNF
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 18
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 82-08-26
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) CSC at 2-24
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval ? Prodir at 2-28
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 3-29
5 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana at 3-46
6 Riccardo Ricco? (Ita) Saunier Duval ? Prodir at 5-19
7 David Arroyo (Esp) Caisse d?Epargne at 10-00
8 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems at 10-25
9 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 10-39
10 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 10-55
110 Steven Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel at 2-30-47