Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) started his season with a bang on Saturday, winning the GP Costa degli Etruschi in Tuscany with a powerful acceleration to the line.
Petacchi was worried about taking on riders who have already ridden the Tour of Qatar but showed his class in the final two kilometres. He lost the wheel of his lead out man Marco Velo as his rivals fought for position but pulled off what he described as a ?McEwen move? by diving in the inside of the final corner and moving up ten metres to retake his place at the back of the Milram train. On the straight and flat finish, Milram then strung out the bunch before Petacchi accelerated away to win the GP Etruschi by several lengths. The Italian sprinter celebrated his first win by patting his stomach in a sign to his wife who will give birth to their first child in May.
Fellow Italians Gabriele Balducci (Acqua & Sapone) and Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas and finished second and third but offered little threat to Petacchi, with Danilo Napolitano (Lampre) a distant fourth.
?I like this race and I like starting my season here. I felt better than last year and this is probably the hardest but best sprint I?ve done here. The team was excellent in the sprint,? Petacchi said.
World champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) showed off his rainbow jersey on home roads but avoided in the sprint and finished at the back of the bunch.
BRITS IN ACTION
Britain?s Ian Stannard made his full professional debut in the GP Etruschi race, finishing 30th and best rider of the Landbouwkrediet team.
The former Great Britain Academy rider was a stagiaire with T-Mobile at the end of the 2007 season but opted to turn professional with Landbouwkrediet during the winter and will ride a mix of short stage races and one-day races for the Belgian team in 2008.
?We all had a free hand to ride for ourselves and so I just tried to have a go. I wasn?t far back but it was a crazy finish and was probably the fastest race I?ve ever ridden,? Stannard told Cycling Weekly with a smile on his face after successfully finishing his first race as a professional.
Steve Cummings also made his season debut in the red Team Barloworld colours. Now fully recovered after a knee injury, the powerful track pursuiter worked for new sprinter Baden Cooke finished in the finale and finished 43rd.
Cummings will also ride the Giro della Provincia di Calabria this week as he works hard to be ready for the world track championships in Manchester.