Freire earns first-stage victory by outsprinting Petacchi


CIVITAVECCHIA, Italy -- Oscar Freire of Spain won the first stage Wednesday of the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico, edging out Italian sprint specialist Alessandro Petacchi.

Freire, who rides for Rabobank, finished the 100-mile course in 4 hours, 10 minutes, 1 second. Petacchi and the main group of riders finished with the same time.

Thursday's stage is the course's longest at 126 miles.

Petacchi, who rides with Team Milram, had won his last six sprints but his late surge was not enough to overtake Freire, who won the Tirreno-Adriatico in 2005.

"This isn't a drama, and there is no need to sound the alarm," Petacchi said.

Spain's Jose Rojas was third, followed by Germany's Erik Zabel.

Giro d'Italia champion Danilo di Luca, who faces a two-year doping ban but was cleared to ride Tuesday, finished 57th in the main pack. An April 1 hearing will determine whether he is banned.