Monday, March 17, 2008
Cancellara GC lead proves untouchable
Spaniard Oscar Freire took his second season win on Tirreno-Adriatico's power climb to Castelfidardo, nipping past Italian Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes). The Liquigas and LPR teams had worked hard to position their leaders for the finale up the four-kilometre climb, but it was the 32 year-old three-time World Champion who ruled the hilltop town of accordion builders.
Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) made a bid for the stage win and Fabian Cancellara's overall lead mid-way up the climb, but the CSC rider matched the Italian pedal for pedal stroke to stuff the move. Cancellara, with a 16-second lead over Gasparotto, looks likely to keep the race lead when the 43rd Tirreno-Adriatico concludes tomorrow with a sprinters' stage in San Benedetto del Tronto.
The race was formed by an early escape, but it was closed down by the fifth and last climb up Castelfidardo. Freire managed the climb's 4.5-percent gradient and an attack by Gasparotto to take the sprint from an elite group. "If you win here it means you are going strong," Freire said, referring to Saturday's Milano-Sanremo, where he has won twice.
"I think that the new finale won't change the race much. This year, the race will be changed by the riders, there are a lot of on-form, attacking riders. I think that it will be diverse for us [sprinters] at Sanremo. I also think that Cancellara can do it all, even win in the sprint."
It was 'Spartacus' Cancellara who rose to the occasion 24 hours after his time trial win to take the leader's maglia azzurra. After matching the attack from Gasparotto, he upped the pace before sitting in on the sprint finale.
"The team worked completely for me to defend the jersey," said the 26 year-old Swiss. "Gasparotto did what he could to win, and I stuck with him. Freire showed he is going strong. After tomorrow, I will know more about Sanremo. Given today, I know that I can handle some attacks, like the one of Gasparotto. Overall, it is important to take this jersey home."