Fri, Jul 09, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Petacchi sprints to second win

NO ACCELERATION Mark Cavendish was set up for the showdown by Mark Renshaw, but he was unable to move up a gear when the action got going

REUTERS , REIMS, FRANCE

Alessandro Petacchi produced a sparkling sprint to grab his second victory of this year’s Tour on Wednesday in the 153.5km fourth stage to Reims, the home of champagne.

At the start of the Tour in Rotterdam, sprinter Mark Cavendish was expected to outshine the rest of the field, but it is the Italian who has emerged as the strongest finisher in the race so far.

“To win two stages on the Tour de France means a lot, especially at this time in my career,” said Petacchi, also victor of the first stage in Brussels. “I had nothing to lose, so I launched the sprint from far. I stayed close to Cavendish, I marked [Robbie] McEwen and that was it.”

“My experience of more than 200 sprints made the difference,” he said.

Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara retained his overall lead at the end of a quiet ride in the sun after two incident-packed days marred by crashes.

The day was also quieter for seven-time champion Lance Armstrong until after the finish when he was booed by a spectator at his team bus and driven away in a car.

“We couldn’t have a third [chaotic stage] in a row, it’s good for everybody,” the American told reporters.

While Cavendish, set up for the final showdown by teammate Mark Renshaw, was unable to move up a gear when the action started, the other stage honors went to New Zealand’s Julian Dean and Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Petacchi’s form allowed him to strengthen his position as the most successful active rider on 156 wins, including six Tour stages.

His last laurels on the Tour dated back to 2003 when he won four stages.

While there were bubbles for Petacchi, there was more struggle for Cavendish.

“It’s not so much we who lost it, but the others who improved,” Renshaw said.

German Erik Zabel, Team HTC Columbia’s adviser for sprints, said the absence of Australian Adam Hansen, forced out of the Tour with a broken collarbone, was a major factor.

“Adam is an engine and the team picked him up for this specialty in doing the lead out in the last six to three kilometers,” he said. “The team did a great job. The only thing we missed today was Cav’s sprint legs from last year.”

The Briton, who was the first to hit the canvas in the Brussels stage, has a third chance in the 187.5km fifth stage between Epernay and Montargis, but it could also be third time lucky for Petacchi.

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