"It hasn't been an easy sprint, I had to accelerate since I was badly placed in the final section. Luckily my rivals are not as stong as it seems and I was able to impose my strength. I attacked at the right moment", said Cipollini. Cipollini said that with this victory, many will have to shut up. "I have shown that I can defend myself without my usual set up men. I have many resources for my finishes, even if they don't always come out like I would like". He added that "at the start of the Giro, I didn't think that at this point in the race I would have four stages. Now I'm more at peace and focused on the second half. I expect to finish the Giro, since I've never finished one of the three big ones before".
Pavel Tonkov's lead in the Giro d'Italia has yet to come under fire. After eight days in the leaders pink jersey in this 80th edition of the race the Russian knows the tough days are to come.
The Giro resumes on Wednesday with a 159-km circuit race at this Tyrrhenian resort, and Tonkov's advantage of 41 seconds would seem safe, too, for that day.
There are some hard days before the final week in the Dolomites, and those mountainous stretches are where French challenger Luc Leblanc feels confident. His aim is to hold Tonkov until then.
However the June 4 time trial over 40 kms from Baselga di Pine to Cavalese is the 'doorstep' to the Dolomites, and Tonkov could have the key.
Tonkov's victory in the San Marino time test in the first week gave him the overall lead and his victory on the first mountain at Terminillo pushed it to 41 seconds.
``I expected to be in the first three in San Marino but victory was a surprise,'' he said after beating pre-race favourite Yevgeny Berzin by 21 seconds.
He needs more in hand for the attacks that will come from his Italian rivals Ivan Gotti and Roberto Petito, currently third and fourth, both with deficits of just over a minute.
Tonkov forged his first Giro triumph last year in the Dolomites, and underlined his 1997 chances by winning the Tour of Romandy. So Leblanc will need all the climbing power he showed in winning the Giro del Trentino earlier this month.
Italian Marco Pantani, who crashed out of the Giro d'Italia, said on Monday he was confident of racing in the Tour de France.
``Within a week to 10 days I hope to be back on the bike,'' Pantani said after seeing his doctor in the northern Italian town of Brescia.
``The objective is to be present at the start of the Tour of Switzerland, a ride which is necessary to prepare well for the Tour (de France),'' he added.
Pantani, the pre-race local favourite for the Giro, was one of eight riders to crash when a cat ran across the course during the eighth stage on Saturday.
He suffered swelling and bruising to his left thigh and retired from the race on Sunday morning.
Pantani returned to cycling this season after a 16-month lay-off following a near-fatal crash on a fast downhill stretch of the Milan-Turin race in October 1995.
Over the last 10 years, he has broken a collar bone, wrist, arm, foot and ribs. He has also suffered concussion, a dislocated shoulder and an impacted disc.
The Tour de France begins on July 5.