Italian sprint king Alessandro Petacchi took his second stage victory in this year's Tour de France by outmuscling his rivals in a long drag to the line in Reims. Whereas Petacchi's win in stage 1 in Brussels was marred by three crashes in the closing kilometers, his rivals had no response for his powerful sprint. The Lampre rider got the better of Julian Dean (Garmin-Transitions) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) after the big names of Cavendish and Hushovd faded early.
"If people say I won in Brussels because of the crashes, today I proved that I have the power to win," Petacchi commented after crossing the line. "I've learned a few things in the 200 plus sprints I've done."
Alessandro Petacchi of Italy, second right, strains as he heads towards the finish line to win the fourth stage of the Tour de France
AP Photo/Laurent Rebours
"These victories are important for my team and they give me a lot of confidence," he added. "It's true that without a big leadout train I have to take my chances as I can and anticipate the sprints, but that's not to take anything away from my team because they did a lot of incredible work for me today."
"I think Cavendish was waiting for the the final 250 meters but I anticipated the right moment and jumped early."
Petacchi also brushed aside any thoughts that he is not in this Tour for the long haul.
"Oscar Freire said to me the other day that my Tour is done, I won my stage... But I don't see it like that," he said. "I am here to win more stages."
The Peloton Settles Down
With a late start and a short parcours, today's stage offered a rest day of sorts for the embattled general classification riders and those who have suffered crashes and pain since the opening road stage on Sunday. Everything went according to script, as an early break of five men went clear just 1 kilometer into the race and enjoyed their time in the sun until their capture with just over 4 kilometers to the line. The rest of the peloton stayed compact and rolled steadily into the heart of Champagne country.
Five riders took the initiative to tempt fate against the laws of flat stages, going clear shortly after the drop of the flag leaving Cambrai. The group included recent Dauphiné Libéré stage winner Nicolas Vogondy (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Dimitri Champion (AG2R La Mondiale), Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Francis De Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto), and Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto).
After two stages over 200 km, today's shorter ride meant that the sprinters' teams were not going to let a breakaway get too comfortable. The maximum advantage for the five leaders was 3 minutes 50 seconds at the 50 km mark. HTC-Columbia kept the gap manageable, thinking of the sprint finish to come and the team's fast man, Mark Cavendish.
Thor Hushovd's Cervélo TestTeam took over the pursuit in the closing 40 km along with HTC-Columbia, with Lampre contributing to the chase. Frenchman Dimitri Champion looked the most fluid and eager of the escape, keeping the pace high and resisting until the bitter end as the race closed in on Reims. As the gap tumbled to under 30 seconds in the final 20 km, it was clear the break was doomed and the sprinters began to think ahead to their leadout plans. Under the 5 km to go banner, Champion's last token accelerations with the peloton in sight marked the end of the adventure for the five.
The yellow jersey favorites stayed quiet today. Fabian Cancellara easily held on to his yellow jersey while the general classification remains unchanged ahead of Thursday's stage 5. It was a quiet day too for the likes of Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong and Andy Schleck after the battle on the pavé a day before.
Hushovd Targets Green Repeat
Thor Hushovd was disappointed with his sprint but offered no excuses on a day when he just didn't have the finishing speed required. Despite finishing in ninth position on the stage, he retained his green jersey.
"Today I lacked a little power in the sprint, unfortunately," Hushovd admitted. "I think the fatigue from the first three days, which were very nervous, took a lot away from me. I also suffered a bit in the heat."
"Of course I want to win the green jersey again, but first I want to win another stage," he added. "The fight to the green jersey is just starting. I have to take it day by day and try to pick up points when I can."
HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish, meanwhile, was simply not a factor in the first full bunch sprint of the Tour. Led out by Mark Renshaw with 500 meters to go, Cavendish had no response for the acceleration to the left from Petacchi and promptly admitted defeat by sitting up in the sprint.
Cavendish let his pride get in the way of his objectives, as he sat up in the sprint and thus failed to salvage his day with more points toward the green jersey competition. The three points he conceded today to Thor Hushovd, who has to be seen as the favorite for the green jersey in Paris, may come back to haunt him later in the Tour. He currently languishes in 36th place in the points classification with 15 points to Hushovd's 80.
"I'm sure that Cavendish will win this week," HTC-Columbia's ace leadout man Renshaw insisted after the stage. "The other teams are very strong, it's not that we're not riding well. But there's no question that Mark will win this week."
Stage 4 Results
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) - 03:34:55
- Julian Dean (GRM) +00:00
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (SKY) +00:00
- Robbie McEwen (KAT) +00:00
- Robert Hunter (GRM) +00:00
- Sebastien (BBO) +00:00
- Fabian Cancellara (Sax) 18:28:55
- Geraint Thomas (SKY) +00:23
- Cadel Evans (BMC) +00:39
- Ryder HesJedal (GRM) +00:46
- Sylvain Chavanel (QST) +01:01
- Andy Schleck (SAX) +01:09
Other U.S. Riders
18. Lance Armstrong (RSH) +02:30
24. Levi Leipheimer (RSH) +02:53
43. Christopher Horner (RSH) +03:17
110. George Hincapie (BMC) +09:12
- Saxo Bank 55:30:40
- Garmin Transitions +00:11
- Sky Pro Cycling +00:25
- Astana +02:21
- BMC Racing +02:50
Overall Points Standings
- Thor Hushovd (CTT) - 80 Points
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) - 70 Points
- Robbie McEwen (KAT) - 62 Points
Best Young Rider
- Geraint Thomas 18:29:18
- Andy Schleck +00:46
- Roman Kreuziger +02:01
Complete Standings on LeTour.fr
153.5K (95.4 miles) - Wednesday July 7
- This is the first stage of the 2010 Tour that takes place solely in France
- Reims, known for Champagne production, is a 10-time stage town
- Sprint Points at: Walincourt Selvigny, Flavigny-et-Beaurin, Brienne-Sur-Aisne
- Mountain Pass: Cote de Vadencourt at 40.5 kilometers - 1.6km climb to 3.9 percent grade - Category 4
Image courtesy of www.letour.com
Image courtesy of www.letour.com