Following his confident stage win on Wednesday in the Vuelta, it looked more than likely than Italian Alessandro Petacchi would take another victory in the Vuelta – and in fact he barely waited 24 hours to do so.

Even though Petacchi was isolated from the usual Milram train in Thursday?s bunch sprint finale in Hellin, the 33-year-old from La Spezia still managed to notch up his 19th Vuelta stage victory.

Milram had had to work their finger to the bone to pull back a long five-man move containing two Classics specialists, Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Phillipe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux).

Their move was only reeled in four kilometres from the line following a prolongued chase, all of which allowed Petacchi to trot out the tired old cliche that ?this was not my victory, this one belonged to the team.? by way of explanation as to how he’d won twice in two days.

The team?s efforts to pull back Gilbert and co. explained his relative isolation in the finish, he said later, although with Zabel still strong enough to keep the pace high, Petacchi had few problems outsprinting stage one winner Daniele Bennati (Lampre). Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas) finished a promising sixth.

Percentages of responsibility for Petacchi?s second win in 24 hours apart, Petacchi?s victory in the remote town of Hellin in the central Spanish sierras has made him the second most successful Vuelta stage winner ever.

Petacchi is now second only to Delio Rodriguez in terms of victories – but it is unlikely he will outstrip the Spaniard, who took a staggering 39 stages in the 1940s, as well as the race overall in 1945. Equal third for Vuelta stage wins are Rik Van Looy and Laurent Jalabert, both of whom have 18.

To judge by Petacchi?s reaction when asked how many stages he thought he would win before Madrid, this particular statistic wasn?t of huge importance to the Milram rider.

?I haven?t looked at the route book.? he said. ?In any case, I know that on Friday, even if it looks like it should be a bunch sprint, our team won?t be working for it to happen. We deserve a rest.?

Petacchi?s fellow Italian, Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) has had to quit the race whilst in control of the King of the Mountains competition.

Piepoli did not start stage 12 of the Tour of Spain in order to be with his wife, who gave birth to their first child, Yannis, on Wednesday.

According to Piepoli there were complications after the birth and he decided to head for home. ?I have to be at home with my wife, not here.? he said. ?It?s my duty as a husband and as a dad.

Stage 12 Tour of Spain Algemesi – Hellin 171km
1 Alessandro Petacchi (Italy) Milram 3-41-01
2 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre
3 Aliaksandr Usau (Byl) Ag2R
4 Davide Vigano (Ita) Quick Step
5 Aurelien Clerc (Swi) Bouygues
6 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
9 Allan Davis (Aus) Discovery
10 Andre Greipel (Ger) T-Mobile all st

Overall after 12 stages
1 Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank 48-08-26
2 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse D’Epargne at 2-01
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto at 2-27
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC at 3-02
5 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Karpin-Galicia at 4-35
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 4-42
7 Vladimir Karpets (Spa) Caisse D’Epargne at 5-49
8 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Liquigas at 5-56
9 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel at 6-28
10 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step at 6-39
140 Magnus Backstedt (Ita) Liquigas at 1-26-08

TOUR OF SPAIN 2007: STAGE REPORTS
Stage 11: Petacchi puts troubles behind him for stage win
Rest day review
Stage 10: Menchov proves he’s the boss
Stage nine: Menchov takes control
Stage eight (TT): Devolder soars to race lead
Stage seven: Zabel surprise winner
Stage six: Freire outguns Petacchi for stage hat-trick
Stage five: Freire takes second bunch sprint victory
Stage four: Efimkin upstages favourites in Vuelta
Stage three: Bettini bounces back with Vuelta stage win
Stage two: Freire nets stage win and Vuelta lead
Stage one: Bennati takes race lead in bunch sprint
Tour of Spain preview, including stage and team list

RELATED LINKS
Astana out of 2007 Tour of Spain
Eurosport cycling TV schedule for September
Vuelta confirms support for ASO in ProTour row
Vinokourov wins 2006 Tour of Spain overall

Official site: www.lavuelta.com.