Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) immediately showed he will be a contender in the Giro d?Italia by winning the second stage to Agrigento on Sunday.
Ricco outsprinted 2007 winner Danilo Di Luca (LPR) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) in a sprint after the twisting climb to the finish of the 1994 world championships caused a painful selection.
Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) was fourth in the same time and took the pink jersey from Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream) by one second.
Vande Velde finished 19th but there was a gap between groups of riders and Vande Velde lost ten precious seconds to Pelizotti.
Alberto Contador (Astana) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) also lost ten seconds on the fast finish.
Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) was best British finisher in 35th place at 54 seconds. He worked hard to help Pellizotti and so rightfully shared the champagne with his team mates. Dave Millar was 85th at 2-14 after helping Vande Velde, while the other Brits finished in the big second group that eased up at the start of the 13km finishing circuit.
“I felt good on the climb to the finish and so went for it,? Ricco said, with his usual confidence.
?This win is a clear sign that my form is good. I suffered on the climb up to the finish but I think the riders behind me suffered even more. In cycling you have to win whenever you get the chance. The 20 second time-bonus is also useful for later in the Giro.”
“Beating riders like Danilo Di Luca and Davide Rebellin is a good sign for the rest of the race. I?m only at 90 per cent because I want to be at my best for the decisive final week in the mountains. My goal is to win the Giro.?
Pellizotti made it clear he is also chasing overall victory.
?Wearing the pink jerseys means a lot to me because I?ve dreamed about it as a boy but my big goal is to win the Giro and wear the pink jersey in Milan on the last day,? the Harpo Marx of the peloton said.
?I won my first race on father?s day in 2002. It?s mother?s day and so the pink jersey is for my mum Liliana. It?s also for my wife Claudia and my daughter who will be born in October. I?ve only just found out we?re having a girl and so pink is the right colour.?
The 207km stage rolled through the hills of central Sicily. At the start in Cefalu many riders were worried that the first road stage would see lots of attacks on the twisting country roads. However as soon as Emmanuele Sella (CSF) won the first mountain points, Jeremy Roy (Francaise des Jeux) and David Loosli of Lampre jumped away on the descent.
They opened a ten-minute gap but Slipstream worked soldily on the front to bring them back and the peloton was all together 50km from the finish as the tension began to rise for the finish.
Unfortunately Slipstream?s day of celebration in the pink jersey was overshadowed by the loss of David Zabriskie. The eccentric American was second overall behind Christian Vande Velde after the team time trial but crashed heavily with 65km to go on a level crossing. He landed on his back and was after several minutes sat at the road side, he was taken to hospital and his Giro was over.
The LPR team took over on the 13km circuit used for the 1994 world championships, but on the climb to the finish, Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d?Epargne) blew apart the bunch with a strong attack with a kilometre to go. Leonardo Piepoli pulled him back and then Ricco won with a powerful sprint.
It was a clear message to all his rivals that he will be a contender in this year?s Giro.
GIRO D’ITALIA STAGE TWO: RESULTS
1. Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval in 5hours 48min 35secs
2. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR
3. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
4. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
5. Paolo Savoldelli (ita) LPR
6. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne all same time
7. Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Francaise des Jeux at 4secs
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 8secs
9. Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval
10. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana all same time
64. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 54secs
102. David Millar (GB) Slipstream at 2min 4secs
136. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 7min 46secs
138. Steven Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 7min 55secs
153. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road at 11min 40secs
158. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road at 11min 40secs
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE TWO
1. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas in 6hours 15min 16secs
2. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream at 1sec
3. Chris Sorensen (Den) CSC at 7secs
4. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR at 7secs
5. Morris Possoni (Ita) High Road at 8secs
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 8secs
7. Nicki Sorensen (Den) CSC at 17secs
8. Bradley McGee (Aus) CSC at 17secs
9. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) High Road at 18secs
10. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) LPR at 19secs
35. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 54secs
85. David Millar (GB) Slipstream at 2min 14secs
133. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 7min 55secs
134. Steven Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 8min
145. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road at 11min 38secs
146. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road at 11min 38secs
Bradley Wiggins (r) chats to Christian Vande Velde
David Zabriskie crashes out of stage two
Britain’s David Millar heads the bunch for team-mate and race leader Christian Vande Velde
Christian Vande Velde enjoying his day in pink. He was to lose the lead to Franco Pellizotti by the end of the stage
Riccardo Ricco wins the stage and becomes the man to watch in this year’s Giro
Franco Pellizotti, new race leader
Photos by Graham Watson
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS
Stage one TTT: Slipstream wins Giro team time trial
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: PHOTOS
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery. New photos added daily
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: NEWS
Millar celebrates Slipstream Giro d’Italia success
Bettini looking for final Giro glory
Astana’s troubled build-up to the Giro
Petacchi banned for Salbutamol positive
Yates and Astana make last minute rush to Giro
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: FEATURES
Giro Britannia: how the Brits are doing in Italy
Giro d’Italia 2008 preview
Giro d’Italia 2008: who will win?
Giro d’Italia 2008: The British are coming
Giro d’Italia on Eurosport: TV schedule