Danilo Napolitano (Lampre) spoiled Alessandro Petacchi?s home sprint in Lido di Camaiore on Monday, snatching victory in a high-speed sprint on the Tuscan coast.
Petacchi?s Milram team struggled to lead out the sprint and keep the bunch under control, allowing the other sprinters to move up in the final kilometre and go shoulder to shoulder with Petacchi.
The big Tuscan lead out the sprint and held Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) close to the barriers on the left but McEwen went up the middle of the road and then Napolitano accelerated on the right. Petacchi faded near the line but Napolitano used his track skills to perfectly time his throw to the line to win by half a wheel ahead of McEwen and Petacchi. World champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) finished fourth, with Hushovd sixth.
Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) finished in the bunch in the same time and so kept his 28-second lead on Andrea Noe (Liquigas).
Napolitano is the only Lampre rider who does not have to ride for Lampre team leader Damiano Cunego and paid back the team with his first ever Giro stage win.
?It?s great winning my first Giro stage,? he said.
?Petacchi has won and celebrated a lot during his career and so it?s only fair I celebrate some times. Every sprinter would love to have a lead out train like Petacchi has because it makes winning much easier. I have to look after myself because Lampre are here to win the Giro with Cunego but I?m happy with whatever chance I can get. I wasn?t on form at the start of the Giro but now I?ve proved I deserved my place.?
?Two sprints are never the same and today the final kilometre was a little bit complicated. Petacchi?s train wasn?t in control of things but when he jumped I went at the same time and gradually got up to him and managed to win.?
Napolitano has been a professional rider for four years but learnt how win sprints by racing on the track. He was fifth in the scratch race at the 2006 world championships and finished eleventh this year.
?My track racing background helped me in the sprint. The two disciplines are very different but racing on the track helps you in lots of ways,? he explained.
?I?m not afraid of touching shoulders with other riders and fighting for a place on a wheel. I like the fear and thrills of sprinting.?
PETACCHI BEATEN AND DOWNBEAT
Petacchi was disappointed to lose just 50 metres from his new home in Lido di Camaiore but was satisfied because he did a good sprint against a slight head wind.
?I think I did a great sprint but perhaps I jumped a little bit too early and Napolitano beat me. I really wanted to win but I?m satisfied because I know I?m back to my best,? he said.
?I?d have preferred to have lost in Mugello and won here but Napolitano was impressive today. We?re different kind of sprinters because he can jump at 50 metres to go. Perhaps I made a mistake but when Hushovd went, I had to accelerate as well. It was early and there was a head wind and that?s why Napolitano was able to get passed me.?
PINOTTI KEEPS RACE LEAD
Italy?s Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) avoided the dangers of the sprint but finished in the same time as Napolitano and so retained the overall race lead. Andrea Noe (Liquigas) is second at 28 seconds and Astana’s Serguei Yakovlev is third at 54 seconds. Tuesday?s 250km tenth stage is from Camaiore to Santuario Nostra Signora della Guardia near Genoa. It ends with a nine-kilometre climb and so Pinotti does not expected to keep the overall race lead.
?I?ll try and keep the jersey but after Sunday?s stage there are a lot of strong riders who are pretty close in the overall standings and so it?ll be difficult,? Pinotti said.
?If I lose the race leader?s pink jersey I?ll still be happy because it?s been an emotional few days and something I?ll never forget.?
GIRO D’ITALIA: STAGE NINE RESULTS
1 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 177km in 4-57-08
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Milram
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
5 Koldo Fernandez (Esp) Euskaltel
6 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
7 Ariel Maximilian Richeze (Arg) Panaria
8 Herve Duclos-Lassalle (Fra) Cofidis
9 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10 Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) CSC all at same time
145 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas
179 Steven Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel at 3-29
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE NINE
1 Marco Pinotti (Ita) T-Mobile Team in 39-45-42
2 Andrea Noe (Ita) Liquigas at 0.28
3 Serguei Yakovlev (Kaz) Astana 0.54
4 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 1.06
5 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital 1.10
6 Jose Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel 1.36
7 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.43
8 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit System 1.51
9 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Predictor-Lotto 2.13
10 Alexandr Arekeev (Rus) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo 2.17
53 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas 7.21
109 Steve Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channnel 24.29