Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) sprinted to his second victory of the 2010 Tour de France on Wednesday in an exciting conclusion to an otherwise-leisurely stage 4.
The peloton waited until the final 3km of the 153.5km leg from Cambrai to Reims to retrieve a break that had been out front all day, and while HTC-Columbia set about assembling its train for Mark Cavendish as per usual, it was derailed by a last-ditch surge from Petacchi’s teammate Danilo Hondo, and the Manxman couldn’t catch his traditional lift to the line.
Petacchi steamed across for the victory, trailed by Julian Dean (Garmin-Transitions). Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen roared through for a narrowly won third place, while Cav’ finished outside the top 10 entirely, crossing in 12th position.
“I’m not like a little old man, as some have said. This win is really important for me and for the team,” said Petacchi.
“I’ve come here to win stages and I’ve shown twice that I’m not here to make up the numbers.
“In the over 200 sprints I’ve done I’ve learned a thing or two. But today I have to say thanks to my team, they really anticipated things despite the fact they don’t have a lot of experience trying to set up sprints.”
The peloton takes a break
The riders remaining in the 97th Tour were clearly in a mood to take it as easy as possible after four very tough days in the saddle — and all too often, off of it. And the course accommodated them, serving up a comparatively light 153.5km leg from Cambrai to Reims.
There was just one rated climb, the Category 4 Côte de Vadencourt, a 1.6km ascent averaging 3.9 percent. Throw in some sunny, hot weather and a tail wind, and you have a beautiful day for a bike race.
Dimitri Champion (Ag2r La Mondiale) certainly seemed to be enjoying the conditions — he got the ball rolling early, attacking just 1.5km into the stage. Quickly climbing aboard were Nicolas Vogondy (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Francis de Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto), and the break du jour set about taking time.
The gap briefly went out to more than three minutes before HTC-Columbia tightened the leash a bit, hoping to jump-start Cavendish, who has had a less-than-stellar start to the 2010 Tour.
With 100km to go the break held an advantage of two minutes as the race noodled along at 41 kph (24.5 mph). Kanstantsin Sivtsov was on the point for HTC, followed by a string of RadioShacks.
Fifty kilometers later the gap was down to 90 seconds and falling. With 40km to race the leaders had surrendered another half-minute and the bunch was curb to curb, confident of retrieving the escapees in plenty of time to set up a mass dash to the line.
Then Cervélo TestTeam took the front and lined the bunch out again, closing the gap to 30 seconds with 30km to go. Cavendish was marking green jersey Thor Hushovd, and Katusha’s Robbie McEwen was working his way forward.
- Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel – Euskadi), 70th at 03:46
- Nicolas Vogondy (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) 95th at 07:34
- Francis De Greef (Omega Pharma – Lotto), 124th at 12:16
- Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto), 146th at 17:19
- Dimitri Champion (Ag2r-La Mondiale), 157th at 18:39
The break refused to capitulate, though — the quintet sped up, too, and with 25km to go rebuilt their advantage to 45 seconds.
HTC-Columbia gets some help closing the gap
HTC-Columbia replaced Cervélo at the front, with a couple of Rabobanks nearby, hoping to slingshot Oscar Freire to the line.
Twenty kilometers from the line Cervélo infiltrated the HTC train, clearly confident in Hushovd’s ability to go mano a mano with HTC’s Cavendish, and the uptick in speed had clipped the break’s advantage back to 35 seconds.
Five kilometers later Lampre had contributed a few riders to the pursuit, thinking of Petacchi, winner of the crash-plagued first stage. http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=125365
Ten kilometers from the line the escapees clung to 15 seconds’ advantage, in clear sight of the chase. And still they did not concede.
- 2000 Vuelta a España: stages 8 and 12
- 2002 Vuelta a España: stage 12
- 2003 Tour de France: stages 2, 3, 5, and 6
- 2003 Giro d’Italia: stages 1, 5, 6, 13, and 17
- 2003 Vuelta a España: stages 3, 5, 12, 14, and 21
- 2004 Giro d’Italia: stages 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 21, and points jersey.
- 2004 Vuelta a España: stages 2, 4, 7, and 13
- 2005 Giro d’Italia: stages 10, 13, 16, and 21
- 2005 Vuelta a España: stages 3, 4, 8, 12, 21, and points jersey
- 2007 Vuelta a España: stages 11 and 12
- 2009 Giro d’Italia: stages 2 and 3
- 2010 Tour de France: stage 1 and 4
BMC Racing Team moved up next, hoping to keep world champion Cadel Evans safe and sound in the finale. Team Sky, too, stepped up, perhaps betting on Edvald Boasson Hagen.
And then a series of roundabouts threw a monkey wrench into the chase and the break lost one rider. But no matter — with 3km to go the chase finally swept up the crumbling break on the narrow streets of Reims.
Tony Martin went to the front of the four-man HTC train, then peeled off only to see Hondo take a dig up the right-hand side of the road, briefly unhitching Cav’s lead-out. Cervélo set up next, trying to spring Hushovd free, and then Mark Renshaw punched it for Cav’.
But The Manxman didn’t have it, and Petacchi did — he closed the deal just ahead of Garmin’s Dean, who had been dragging Hunter toward the line. A surging Boasson Hagen took third. Green jersey Hushovd finished ninth, while Cavendish had to settle for 12th on the day.
The Manxman’s frustration at failing to get a win under his belt in one of the few sprint stages on the first week was taken out on his bike, which he threw to the ground at his team bus.
Petacchi was kind enough not to add fuel to the fire.
“I don’t think he’s got things to learn from me, or anybody else,” he said. “He won six stages last year, so he knows perfectly how to sprint. But that’s sprinting. I’ve won twice here, but that doesn’t mean I’m faster than him, or he’s faster than me.
“Each sprint is different.”
Dean, for his part, was happy with the way things turned out.
“I didn’t feel super but I’ve been around a long time, I know how to follow wheels and get myself in the right position and that’s what I did — and ended up with second place,” said Dean. “It was all right, considering I only came out of hospital two days ago.”
Boasson Hagen, who is making his race debut, was even happier with third place on the podium.
“It was a very good job from the team to get me in the right position. It was good to get third — I’m really happy,” he said.
Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara held onto his overall lead, with Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas second at 23 seconds and Evans third at 39 seconds.
Cutting southeast of Paris from Éperney to Montargis, stage 5 is another mostly flat stage, very similar to stage 4. Riders will hit a couple of Category 4 climbs in the opening 40km before entering the rolling country that continues to the end. The finale in Montargis is surprisingly technical, threading through narrow back roads before making a sharp turn onto the slightly uphill straightaway.
Robbie McEwen won the last stage to finish in Montargis in 2005, taking a bunch sprint ahead of Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd and Stuart O’Grady. More on stage 5.
- A day without crashes in the 97th Tour is like a day without sunshine in Florida — Euskaltel’s Amets Txurruka hit the deck early on, but remounted, sporting a considerable amount of road rash.
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