Italian sprint ace Alessandro Petacchi of the Lampre team won the second stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday amid protests from British star Mark Cavendish, who took the leader’s pink jersey.
Petacchi just edged HTC rider Cavendish in a battle for the finish line, in a victory which was only confirmed by a jury after viewing video footage.
The 37-year-old Petacchi had launched his sprint 225m from the line. His British rival tried to overtake on the right, before being forced to try on the left after the Italian slightly changed his direction.
Italy’s Manuel Belletti finished third after the longest stage, raced under blazing sunshine over 244km.
“If I changed direction, I didn’t realize it. I don’t think I made a mistake,” the Italian said amid protests from Cavendish and his team. “I don’t have a problem with him [Cavendish]. He’s young, he reacts quickly ... there will be other sprints, he’ll win others.”
Cavendish laid the blame with the jury rather than his rival.
“It’s not the fault of Alessandro, who is a great rider, a great sprinter whom I respect,” the rider from the Isle of Man said. “In the past, I was relegated in the standings for changing direction by centimeters in the sprint. I thought it would be the same this time. I repeat, my frustration isn’t because of Alessandro’s error, but that of the jury or the organizers.”
It was the 22nd Giro success for Petacchi, whose five wins in the 2007 race were scrapped after a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport following a positive test for salbutamol.
“For me, it’s the 27th stage win in the Giro. I dedicate it to my son Alessandro, who will be three years on Tuesday,” Petacchi said. “All the team did a perfect job. [Danilo] Hondo was extraordinary. I hope to have him at my side until I retire. Together we’re even stronger. To beat Cavendish, who is very quick, the only possibility is to anticipate, to launch the sprint before him. It was a very long sprint. In the final 50m, I thought I’d lost.”
Germany’s Sebastian Lang had led for most of the race, holding a 19-minute advantage after 82km, but the former German time-trial champion was caught 26km from the line.
Petacchi won two stages last year and the green jersey in the points standings.
His previous Giro success was in 2009 when he also beat Cavendish in the opening sprint. Cavendish then went on to win three stages and he dominated the sprint in the subsequent Tour de France with six wins.
In the very mountainous Giro, Cavendish knows, however, that his chances are few.
“There are five stages which can end in a sprint,” he said.
In the overall standings, 25-year-old Cavendish, who also wore the leader’s pink jersey in 2009, takes top spot from Italian teammate Marco Pinotto.
“When you wear the pink jersey, you always feel an incredible emotion,” Cavendish said. “It rewards the work of the entire team, who controlled all the race. Keeping it another day after the team time-trial is a good result. The next stage? It’s possible that it will come down to the sprint, but it won’t be easy.”
The third stage, a 173km ride between Reggio Emilia and Rapallo, looks more complicated for the sprinters in the final 50km, before another opportunity will present itself in Livorno on the western coast of Italy.