Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Cycling-Bettini wins first stage of Tirreno-Adriatico
By Stephen Farrand
ROME, March 8 - Former race winner Paolo Bettini
of Italy won a sprint finish to claim the first stage of the
Tirreno-Adriatico in Tivoli on Wednesday.
The Quick Step rider out-sprinted Erik Zabel of Germany and
Thor Hushovd of Norway after his team mates pulled back an early
attack on the gradual climb to the finish of the 167-km stage.
Bettini jumped to the front in the final 200 metres and held
on in the dash to the line.
"Last year I suffered in this race because I'd had a lot of
health problems. This year my form is much better and I've shown
it," Bettini told reporters.
"I knew the final part of the stage and timed my effort just
right. I have to thank my team mates because they did a great
job helping me on the climb to the finish.
"Winning is even nicer when everything goes perfect like
Bettini won the Tirreno-Adriatico in 2004 and is keen for a
second overall victory.
"I'm not going to hold back. This year's route is tough. The
stage five time trial and the uphill finish at San Giacomo on
stage six will decide the race," Bettini said.
"Levi Leipheimer and Stefano Garzelli are the big favourites
but I've thrown my hat into the ring and I'm going to give it a
Tirreno-Adriatico is known as the race of the two seas
because it crosses central Italy from the west coast Tyrrhenian
sea to the east coast Adriatic.
Thursday's 171-km second stage is from Tivoli to Frascati in
the hills south of Rome.