The veteran Italian took a strong sprint victory in Friday’s seventh stage into Orihuela, leaving Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) trailing in his wake with second and JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank)crossing the line third.
So far through seven stages, there have been no repeat winners and Cavendish has gone winless through three contested sprints. The Manxster was boxed in during the sprint, but got a consolation by taking over the points jersey category.
“I was on Petacchi’s wheel and a Quick Step rider came to the front. He was sprinting but not sprinting. It was my problem for being in the box, I should have been out for the win. My team did a good job, so I’m disappointed. I’m in the points jersey, so it’s ok.”
Lampre did a great job setting up Ale-Jet through a narrow finishing kilometer that included two tight chicanes that made positioning key for the sprint. Haedo was getting a lead-out from Fabian Cancellara while Tyler Farrar, a winner in Lorca two days ago, who is missing the still-injured Julian Dean, could only muster fifth in the tight scramble.
The victory was Petacchi’s 52nd stage win in grand tours, the most among active riders.
“It’s always difficult to win a sprint but it is particularly difficult to win here because of the number of fast riders that are competing in the Vuelta,” Petacchi said. “This win was really needed. Getting 20 wins in a Grand Tour isn’t an easy task. My 52 stage wins at the three Grand Tours at the age of 36 shows to the young cyclists that a career can be long and successful, but it also requires a lot of sacrifices.”
Petacchi admitted that the controversy surrounding a new round of doping allegations levelled at him during the Tour de France threw his life into turmoil. Petacchi, who had already served a ban for high levels of Salbutamol in 2007, was allegedly the focus of new investigations in Italy, something he denied.
“After the Tour de France I’ve had one of the worse periods of my career. I’ve spent more time with my solicitor than my family and it’s been harmful,” Petacchi said. “For 25 days I’ve trained very little. I had a big lack of training when I arrived in Spain. Therefore, winning here brings me an enormous happiness.”
With most of the favorites using the Vuelta to train for the upcoming world championships, Petacchi was quick to discount his chances. He’s not even sure if he’ll make the highly competitive Italian squad, which will likely center around Filippo Pozzato.
“Now the world championship is another story because it’s a 260km long race. It’s difficult to think that 100 riders will contest a sprint for the rainbow jersey. You need to have a great condition for riding the World’s. I yet have to improve mine before deciding anything. It’s up to [national coach Paolo] Bettini to decide anyway. It’s still a long way to go to this race in October.”
The stage followed a familiar pattern, with an early breakaway attempt carving out a promising lead only to see it succumb to the larger interests of the peloton. So far through seven stages, no breakaways have proven successful.
Four riders pulled clear — Martin Pedersen (Footon-Servetto), Vladimir Isaichev, (Xacobeo Galicia) Dominik Roels (Milram) and Jorge Montenegro (Andalucia Cajasur) gained almost nine minutes before Lampre, FDJ, Garmin and Columbia started the chase in earnest.
Ready for showdown
Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Lotto) safely defended his red leader’s jersey, but will have a tougher go in Saturday’s potentially explosive eighth stage that climbs the short but steep Cat. 1 Alto de Xorret de Catí.
The five-climb, 190km could see the 2010 Vuelta’s first breakaway stay clear, especially with a rider like David Moncoutie (Cofidis), who is chasing the climber’s jersey. The GC favorites will be eyeing each other and waiting for the Catí showdown.
The climb is like a wall, almost as steep as the Angliru in some sections. In fact, it’s called the Angliru of the south. Then there’s an equally steep 3km descent and then slightly kicks up in the final 400 meters to the line.
The GC is still packed tight and Saturday’s stage could reveal who has the legs to go for the overall victory.
Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) continues to be in the right place at the right time during the first week of his Vuelta debut. The grand tour rookie was well-placed as the main pack split on the narrow run into Orihuela and didn’t lose time on GC to remain sixth overall.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Van Garderen said at the finish line. “This weekend will be hard. My legs are feeling good. I hope to be OK.”
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Transitions) is also doing well, surviving a series of steep, explosive climbs that are not his favorite terrain to slot into 15th overall at 1:21 back, just 10 seconds behind two-time Vuelta champion Denis Menchov (Rabobank).
- 1. Alessandro PETACCHI, (ITA) Lampre-Farnese Vini, in 4:36:12
- 2. Mark CAVENDISH, (GBR) HTC-Columbia, at 0
- 3. Juan José HAEDO, (ARG) Team Saxo Bank, at 0
- 4. Andreas STAUFF, (GER) Quick Step, at 0
- 5. Tyler FARRAR, (USA) Garmin-Transitions, at 0
- Complete results
- 1. Philippe GILBERT, (BEL) Omega Pharma-Lotto, in 27:12:38
- 2. Igor ANTON HERNANDEZ, (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 10
- 3. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, (ESP) Team Katusha, at 10
- 4. Vincenzo NIBALI, (ITA) Liquigas-Doimo, at 12
- 5. Peter VELITS, (SVK) HTC-Columbia, at 16
- Complete results