Gasparotto wins opening leg of Giro d'Italia

Updated: May 12, 2007, 1:53 PM ET
Associated Press

LA MADDALENA, Sardinia -- Liquigas cyclist Enrico Gasparotto won the opening leg of the 90th edition of the Giro d'Italia on Saturday.

Gasparotto finished the 15.9-mile team time trial that started in Caprera in 33 minutes, 38 seconds.

Paolo Savoldelli and the Astana team were second -- 13 seconds back -- followed by Fabian Cancellara's Team CSC, 30 seconds behind Gasparotto.

Lance Armstrong's former team Discovery Channel looked on course for the fastest time until its Ukrainian captain Jaroslav Popovych fell shortly before the end, trying to negotiate one of the tricky stage's 167 bends.

Discovery finished fifth, 49 seconds off the lead.

Giro favorites Damiano Cunego, who rides for Lampre-Fondital, and Saunier-Duval rider Gilberto Simoni were fourth and 10th, respectively.

Francaise des Jeux rider Carlos Da Cruz missed the race after fracturing his foot during Friday's opening ceremony. He will return to France on Sunday and could miss the Tour de France.

Defending champion Ivan Basso and five other riders implicated in a doping scandal were also absent from the 197-strong field. Basso has admitted involvement with a doctor accused of running a doping clinic in Madrid.

A seventh rider, Astana rider Eddy Mazzoleni of Italy, reportedly was under pressure to withdraw from the race. However, team manager Giovanni Fidanza denied the reports.

"There's no Mazzoleni case," Fidanza said. "No one has ever asked us to stop the rider from racing. Eddy is relaxed and, as far as we are concerned, he has nothing to do with the judicial inquiry."

The course winds its way south Sunday in the 127.4-mile second leg from Tempio Pausania to Bosa.

The Giro returned to Sardinia for the first time in 16 years. Two more stages will be run on the Mediterranean island before the race heads to Salerno and mainland Italy for the fourth stage on Wednesday.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press