Italy?s Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) won the GP Costa degli Etruschi race in Italy for a fifth consecutive year, dominating the high-speed bunch sprint yet again on the long finishing straight.
Petacchi was disqualified from last year?s result because of his positive for Salbutamol in the 2007 Giro d?Italia, meaning he has officially won the race four times but yet again nobody in the largely Italian peloton had the speed to beat the 35 year-old, who ended his 2008 season with two stages wins in the Tour of Britain last September.
First year professional Jacopo Guarnieri (Liquigas) finished second. He won 12 races as an amateur last year and quickly showed he could be the new sprinter most likely to replace Petacchi in years to come. South Africa?s Robbie Hunter (Barloworld) finished third but Petacchi was several bike lengths clear and had the time to switch across the road to avoid leading out his rivals and then to put his arms in the air and found a rare smile as he crossed the line.
Thomas crashes in Brit debut
The Tuscan race marked the season debut for Brits Ian Stannard (ISD), Steve Cummings and Geraint Thomas (Barloworld).
Stannard helped split the peloton on the early hilly section of the race, allowing his ISD team leader Giovanni Visconti and team mate Andriy Grivko to break away until the final two 11km finishing circuits. Stannard also helped Oscar Gatto in the sprint and the Italian finished eighth.
Cummings and Thomas used the race as a day of quality training. Thomas crashed early on and again four kilometres from the finish but was not hurt and finished the race. Cummings rode strongly helping Hunter in the sprint but wisely avoided the fight for Alessandro Petacchi?s wheel at the back of the LPR lead out train.
All three Brits will stay in Tuscany for the next few days. Stannard will ride the Giro di Grosseto later this week, while Cummings and Thomas will spend three more days at the Barloworld training camp and then head to the South of France for the Tour of the Mediteranian. After the theft of 21 Barloworld team bikes, Thomas was forced to use his race bike from 2008 but Cummings got a brand new bike from Bianchi on Friday night.
GP COSTA DEGLI ETRUSCHI 2009: RESULTS
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) LPR-Famese Vini 193km in 4-44-34
2. Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Liquigas
3. Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld
4. Francesco Ginanni (Ita) Seramenti Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattolii
5. Marko Kump (Slo) Adria Mobil Slovenia
6. Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
7. Marco Frapporti (Ita) CSF Group-Navigare
8. Oscar Gatto (Ita) ISD
9. Francesco Rivera (Ita) Amica Chips-Knauf
10. Krzysztof Szczawinski (Pol) Miche-Silver Cross-Selle Italia all at same time
37. Ian Stannard (GB) ISD at 21secs
95. Steven Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 1-30
110. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 3-00
Welshman Geraint Thomas at the team presentation
A colourful peloton brightens up a winter day
Britain’s Ian Stannard works hard at the front for his ISD team
ISD team-mates Giovanni Visconti and Andriy Grivko break for it
Alessandro Petacchi wins the 2009 GP degli Etruschi, his fifth consecutive victory at the race
Podium celebrations for Petacchi