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After a slip-up yesterday caused by a puncture a few kilometres from the finish, Vuelta sprint king Alessandro Petacchi was quickly back on winning form today, collecting his third bunch sprint victory of this year's race ahead of Thor Hushovd and Paolo Bettini. There was no significant change in the overall standings before Sunday's 48km time trial around the resort of Lloret, with Roberto Heras retaining a narrow lead over Denis Menchov.
Petacchi and several of his main sprinting rivals are likely to pull out of the Vuelta once the race reaches its first rest day after some tough stages in the Pyrenees, which meant the sprint summit in Lloret is likely to be their last before expected match-up in the world championship road race in Madrid.
The closing kilometres were nervous due to numerous roundabouts and the tricky surface of recently relaid roads. Phonak's Miguel Angel Perdiguero tried to get clear on the final drag before the finish, but Fassa Bortolo's train were quickly on the Spaniard.
The final sprint was led out by Hushovd, but the Norwegian could not hold off Petacchi's burst in the final 50 metres. Based on this and what we've seen already in this race, the Italian has established himself as the hottest of favourites for Madrid, but it remains to be seen whether Tom Boonen has been holding something back and how the presence of Robbie McEwen might alter things in three weeks' time.
Stage 8, Tarragona-Lloret de Mar
1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 189km in 4.19.14 (43.74kph)
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
3 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
4 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval
5 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
6 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile
8 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Cofidis
9 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile
10 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak 0.03
1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Wrth 33.22.47
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0.12
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 1.07
4 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Saunier Duval 1.09
5 David Blanco (Spa) Comunitat Valenciana 1.11
6 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 1.26
7 Unai Yus (Spa) Bouygues Telecom 1.37
8 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunitat Valenciana 1.39
9 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros 1.58
11 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 2.03
14 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 2.11
PIC BY LAVUELTA.COM