Vuelta 4: Second stage for Petacchi

Rain and strong winds could not stop Alessandro Petacchi even if the Italian does claim to be short

Rain and strong winds could not stop Alessandro Petacchi even if the Italian does claim to be short

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Alessandro Petacchi scored his second stage win in three days at the Vuelta, leading the field home with something to spare at the end of wind-buffeted day to Zaragoza. The Italian was well clear of Erik Zabel and Oscar Freire at the line, where US Postal’s Benoit Joachim held on to the leader’s gold jersey for the second day. While it was no surprise that Petacchi won the eventual bunch sprint, it was that the bunch finished almost entirely intact behind him. Strong winds and heavy rain were forecast before the stage start, and the riders got both in spades. Strong headwinds meant only those with the most kamikaze of breakaway feelings ventured clear of the peloton. Relax’s Xavier Florencio instigated the main break of the stage, and he was joined by Ag2r’s Julien Laidoun, Euskaltel’s I¤aki Isasi and Costa de Almeria’s David Fernandez. This quartet got a maximum of three and a half minutes clear, but were never likely to stay away. They weren’t helped by a nervous chasing pack. A crash early in the stage had left Saeco’s Alessandro Spezialetti in need of a new helmet and Tyler Hamilton nursing grazes to an elbow, and the edgy feel only increased as the bunch encountered a tricky combination of high winds on narrow roads late in the stage. Liberty Seguros and Illes Balears pushed the pace in the hope of forcing splits, but somehow the bunch stayed together as the leading four were reeled back in. Any late attempts to break clear were quickly closed down by Fassa Bortolo, Cofidis or T-Mobile, leaving Petacchi to demonstrate once again that he is a class apart in the sprints when the force is with him. Tomorrow’s stage to Morella is longish at 186.5km and features a testing run-in. The route passes over the second-cat Torremiro climb just 10 kilometres from the finish, then ends with a third-cat climb to the line. The likes of Alejandro Valverde and Stefano Garzelli should be among the contenders here. Stage 4, Soria-Zaragoza 1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 167.5km in 4.23.01 (38.21kph) 2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 4 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Cofidis 5 Angelo Furlan (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 6 Giosue Bonomi (Ita) Saeco 7 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Saunier Duval 8 Pedro Horrillo (Spa) Quick Step 9 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Cofidis 10 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick Step 11 Ion Del Rio (Spa) Costa de Almeria 12 Mariano Piccoli (Ita) Lampre 13 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal 14 Max Van Heeswijk (Hol) US Postal 15 Nicolas Inaudi (Fra) Ag2r 16 Erki Putsep (Est) Ag2r 17 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Vini Caldirola 18 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Lampre 19 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) US Postal 20 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco 27 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 34 Robert Hunter (SA) Rabobank 35 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 45 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) CV-Kelme 49 Frank Hoj (Den) CSC 63 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak 67 Michael Barry (Can) US Postal 83 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile 90 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 95 Joseba Beloki (Spa) Saunier Duval 116 David Zabriskie (USA) US Postal 121 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 152 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis 186 Scott Sunderland (Aus) Alessio-Bianchi 0.48 Overall standings 1 Benoit Joachim (Lux) US Postal-Berry Floor 13.38.59 2 Max Van Heeswijk (Hol) US Postal 0.18 3 Michael Barry (Can) US Postal 0.24 4 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal 5 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 6 Victor Hugo Pe¤a (Col) US Postal 7 David Zabriskie (USA) US Postal 8 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 0.40 9 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile 10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) CV-Kelme 0.47 11 Santiago Botero (Col) T-Mobile 0.55 12 Tomas Konecny (Cze) T-Mobile 13 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears 0.57 14 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 1.03 15 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) CV-Kelme 1.11 16 David Blanco (Spa) CV-Kelme 17 Ruben Plaza (Spa) CV-Kelme 18 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal 1.14 19 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak 20 Pablo Lastras (Spa) Illes Balears 1.20 32 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 1.34 34 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 1.37 39 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Cofidis 1.46 40 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco 1.47 52 Frank Hoj (Den) CSC 2.04 75 Joseba Beloki (Spa) Saunier Duval 2.14 119 Robert Hunter (SA) Rabobank 3.26 146 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis 5.00 168 Scott Sunderland (Aus) Alessio-Bianchi 6.42