Vuelta 2: Petacchi off to a flyer

Alessandro Petacchi starts this year's Vuelta as he did last year's in winning form, while Max Van H

Alessandro Petacchi starts this year’s Vuelta as he did last year’s in winning form, while Max Van H

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Although admitting that his form is not at its best after a bad fall at the recent Tour of Holland, Alessandro Petacchi still had more than enough speed to see off his rivals at the end of the first road stage of the Tour of Spain in Burgos this afternoon. Set up perfectly by his Fassa team-mates, Petacchi easily saw off Erik Zabel and Oscar Freire to claim his eighth stage win at the Vuelta and no less than his 18th win of the season. The lead changed hands within the US Postal team as Dutch sprinter Max Van Heeswijk took the told jersey. He later explained that the team had been forced to counter attempts by Zabel to gain bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints, and Van Heeswijk’s success in doing so boosted him above day one leader Floyd Landis by a handful of seconds. “I really want a stage win,” Van Heeswijk explained after the stage. “Tomorrow has an uphill finish which suits me more. There is a time trial at the end of the first week, where Floyd will have a good chance, but in any case, the important thing is that the lead stays with our team.” What was a long stage for the modern-day Vuelta started in untypically sedate fashion. A third of the stage had been covered before the break of the day went clear, Cafs Baqu’s Ricardo Serrano and Quick Step’s Bram Tankink making that effort. They were swept up well before the finish, however, as the late increase of speed in the bunch causing a big split in the main group. The main casualty of this was Joseba Beloki, although his Saunier Duval team closed down the split and got the Basque back up to the front group well before the finish. Petacchi revealed after the stage he had not been planning to come to the Vuelta, but changed his plans when forced out of the Tour de France prematurely by injury. He has come to Spain with the aim of ending his great season on a high, and Monday’s stage into Soria could well see him victorious again. Stage 2, Leon-Burgos 1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortola 207km in 5.02.05 (41.11kph) 2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 4 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Cofidis 5 Pedro Horrillo (Spa) Quick Step 6 Giosue Bonomi (Ita) Saeco 7 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal 8 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Vini Caldirola 9 Erki Putsep (Est) Ag2r 10 I¤aki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel Overall standings 1 Max Van Heeswijk (Hol) US Postal-Berry Floor 5.32.44 2 Benoit Joachim (Lux) US Postal 0.02 3 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 0.06 4 Michael Barry (Can) US Postal 5 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal 6 Victor Hugo Pe¤a (Col) US Postal 7 David Zabriskie (USA) US Postal 8 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 0.25 9 Tomas Konecny (Cze) T-Mobile 0.37 10 Santiago Botero (Col) T-Mobile