Alessandro Petacchi won his second stage of this year’s Tour de France after outgunning the rest of the race’s sprinters into Reims.
The 36 year old Lampre-Farnese rider was first across the line ahead of Garmin-Transition’s Julian Dean and Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Mark Cavendish came across the line in 12th place, having opened up the sprint but failed to find his sprinting legs. Although the Manxman will have the opportunity to prove otherwise over the next couple of days, it seems that the disruptions he experienced earlier this season have had significant affect on his form.
Up until the hustle and bustle of the finish, it had been an uneventful flat stage.
The usual early break escaped almost straight after deneutralisation.
With the bunch already lethargic after two eventful days and today’s luxuriously late start (almost 2pm), they were in no mood to reel it straight back in.
Instead, the five-some of Dimitri Champion (Ag2r), Francis De Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Nicolas Vogondy (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto) were allowed their day of glory out front across the prairies towards Champagne.
Never was the break given too much ground, though. The sprinters’ teams know that opportunities for their fastmen are limited in this year’s Tour. Their lead reached a maximum of just over three minutes, before the bunch started to peg them back.
Not too quickly though. Leaving the break hanging out front discourages excitable members of the bunch from launching counter attacks. So when the gap was down to about 30 seconds with 30km left, the sprinters’ teams let off the gas a little.
In the end, it wasn’t until 3km to go, between the numerous roundabouts on the tricky run-in to Reims, that the break was finally brought to heel. With this, HTC-Columbia moved the front and tried to dictate the pace.
Already missing vital member Adam Hansen, the team didn’t look as strong and committed as they were in the lead outs last year. With 1400m to go, Lampre’s Danilo Hondo disrupted their attempt to set up Cavendish by jumping down the right and stringing out the bunch behind him.
Into the final kilometre, HTC’s Mark Renshaw regained the front with Cavendish on his wheel. British champion Geraint Thomas could be seen in the mix too.
But when Renshaw pulled over and Cavendish opened up the charge, there was not the same acceleration we’re used to seeing from him. Down his side, Petacchi passed him, towing Robbie McEwen then, one by one, a number of other sprinters.
In the same manner that he won the opening stage in Brussels, Petacchi held onto his lead tight to the left barrier, resisting the late fast advances of Dean and Robbie Hunter in fifth.
With the main bunch finishing as one, there was a little change in the General Classification. Fabian Cancellara retains the yellow jersey while Geraint Thomas holds onto both second overall as well as the white jersey for best young rider.
Tour de France 2010, stage four: Cambrai-Reims, 153.5km
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese 3-34-55
2. Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin-Transitions
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
4. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
5. Robbie Hunter (RSA) Garmin-Transitions
6. Sebastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
7. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
8. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas
9. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
10. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank all same time
12. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia
19. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky
22. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky
123. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions
129. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo
136. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky
152. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo all same time
170. Charly Wegelius (GB) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 42 secs
General classification after stage four
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank in 18-28-55
2. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 23 secs
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 39secs
4. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions at 46 secs
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step at 1-01
6. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 1-09
7. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo at 1-19
8. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 1-31
9. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 1-40
10. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 1-42
11. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r at 1-42
13. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1-49
14. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 1-49
15. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 2-06.
18. Lance Armstrong (USA) RadioShack at 2-30
47. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 3-19
48. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 3-20
Points classification: Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
Mountains classification: Jerome Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
Young rider classification: Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky
Alessandro Petacchi takes his second 2010 Tour stage win
Fabian Cancellara’s lead remains intact
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Thomas in tour’s white jersey; Wiggins gains time
Evans and Schleck gain in Tour’s hell of the north
The Feed Zone: Tour news and views (July 6)
Vande Velde abandons Tour following crash
Andy Schleck has a laugh after stage two crash
The Feed Zone: News and views (July 5)
Sky banks on Thomas ahead of cobbled stage
Cavendish’s sprint train weakened with Hansen out
Armstrong under fire as Landis allegations reach mainstream
Team Sky’s decision to put Wiggins off early back fires
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins