PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
It was certainly apt that just a day after Mario Cipollini announced his retirement from racing, his successor as the fastest sprinter in the bunch served up yet another demonstration of his finishing powers on the opening road stage of the Tour of Romandy. Led out by his ever-reliable 'train', Alessandro Petacchi showed that even slightly uphill finishes are well within his range nowadays as he saw off Belgian champion Tom Steels, with T-Mobile's Andr Korff third.
The 10-second bonus that Petacchi took for the victory would have been enough to carry him into the leader's jersey if prologue winner Oscar Pereiro hadn't spotted an opportunity of his own at the last intermediate sprint and grabbed two bonus seconds. They were just enough to keep the Spaniard in the lead, although his advantage over the Italian is just tenths of a second.
A stage of three loops based on the town of Avenches was marked by a 125km break by Quick Step's Sbastian Rosseler and Saunier Duval's Ivan Ravaioli. The Belgian Rosseler was eighth in the prologue and no doubt had his eye on the lead, but the pair were swept up well before the finish as Pereiro's Phonak team kept the pace high on the front of the pack.
The only negative point about the stage for Petacchi was a finishing straight crash for team-mate Fabio Baldato. Pulling out of the way after leading out Petacchi, Baldato collided with Liberty Seguros' Angel Vicioso. The Italian crashed spectacularly but crossed the line under his own steam, while Vicioso's dash for the line was brought to a premature halt by two damaged wheels, although he still crossed the line in 20th place.
Thursday's stage should suit Pereiro more than Petacchi, with a first-category climb followed by two second-cat hills. However, there are 40km from the top of the last of them to the finish in Fleurier, and Petacchi's Fassa team should find that enough to get him into contention for another win and with it the race lead as well.
Stage 1, Avenches-Avenches
1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 166.9km in 3.42.55 (44.92kph)
2 Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
3 Andr Korff (Ger) T-Mobile
4 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
5 Jos Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Illes Balears
6 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak
7 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC
8 Josu Silloniz (Spa) Euskaltel
9 Robert Frster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel
1 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak 3.47.21
3 Savoldelli 0.02
4 Brad McGee (Aus) Francaise des Jeux 0.03
5 Sbastien Rosseler (Bel) Quick Step 0.05
6 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak
8 Erik Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 0.06
10 Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC