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.

RESULTS

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

Other

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

Others

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 wins Tour de France 2010 stage 4



Alessandro Petacchi takes his second 2010 Tour stage win

Fabian Cancellara Tour de France 2010 stage 4



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: Photos



Stage three photo gallery



Stage two photo gallery



Stage one gallery



Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2010: Videos



Stage three video highlights



Stage two video highlights



Stage one video highlights



Prologue video highlights

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

Tour de France 2010: Pictures



Tour team presentation, Rotterdam



Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special