Pe­tac­chi wins an­other stage, con­tenders stay safe

Arm­strong, Con­ta­dor in large pack look­ing for­ward to climbs

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Suzanne Hal­libur­ton

REIMS, France — Resur­gent Ital­ian sprinter Alessandro Pe­tac­chi gave fans a two-fin­ger salute at the fin­ish line here Wed­nes­day, each fin­ger rep­re­sent­ing a Tour de France stage vic­tory this week.

If he were to make it a three­fin­ger salute to­day, that prob­a­bly would be just fine for Lance Arm­strong, Al­berto Con­ta­dor and the rest of a yel­low-jersey bunch that is look­ing ahead to the week­end climbs into the Jura moun­tains near Switzer­land.

Wed­nes­day’s event, which was

‘I wanted to do bet­ter, but I missed the power in the sprint to­day. It’s the fa­tigue of the ef­forts from the past three days catch­ing up with me, es­pe­cially from yes­ter­day.’

Thor hushovd

roughly equiv­a­lent to rid­ing from Austin to Waco, was snappy and un­event­ful; 189 rid­ers started, 189 fin­ished, the weather was pleas­ant, rid­ers had a light tail wind, there were no ac­ci­dents, and the group was so com­pact, 163 rid­ers got the same time as the win­ner.

“It was nice,” said Arm­strong. “Ev­ery­body stayed up.”

Arm­strong re­mained 18th over­all, 2 min­utes, 30 sec­onds be­hind Fabian Can­cel­lara of Switzer­land. Aus­tralia’s Cadel Evans, in third over­all, is the best-placed yel­low-jersey con­tender com­ing into to­day’s stage.

And to­day could be a re­peat. The 116.5-mile Stage 5 be­gins in nearby Eper­nay, a cham­pagne cen­ter, and pushes south to Mon­tar­gis, a city in northcen­tral France known for its canals and bridges. This broad zig-zag route starts with two cat­e­gory four hills fa­vor­ing the climbers, then flashes out over flat coun­try fa­vor­ing the sprint­ers.

Al­though dry, the tem­per­a­tures could climb into the low 90s by the fin­ish to­day.

As he has been for most of this first week, Can­cel­lara will race in yel­low to­day. Since win­ning Satur­day’s Pro­logue in Rotterdam, Can­cel­lara has been rid­ing in sup­port of his team­mate Andy Sch­leck, the leader of Saxo Bank team.

Nor­way’s Thor Hushovd, who wore the lead­ing sprinter’s green jersey Wed­nes­day, did not chal­lenge Pe­tac­chi. He said the crashes and tough roads of the first stages had taken a toll.

“I wanted to do bet­ter, but I missed the power in the sprint to­day,” Hushovd said. “It’s the fa­tigue of the ef­forts from the past three days catch­ing up with me, es­pe­cially from yes­ter­day.”

Hushovd won Tues­day’s stage on the cob­ble­stones to give him a cush­ion in the green jersey stand­ings. Arm­strong lost two min­utes af­ter suf­fer­ing a punc­tured tire on the sixth of seven stretches of cob­bles.

The time loss was a blow to Arm­strong’s de­sire for an eighth yel­low jersey. But he said Wed­nes­day he still is go­ing for the win in Paris. Chances are, the race will be de­cided in two stages in the Alps and four in the Pyre­nees, with the key ac­tion com­ing in the Tour’s fi­nal week.

But to­day and Fri­day will be ac­cel­er­a­tion time for the sprint­ers such as the 36-yearold Pe­tac­chi, who hasn’t raced in the Tour since 2004.

His vic­tory Wed­nes­day was his sixth ca­reer Tour stage win.

He also won Sun­day’s Stage 1 to Brus­sels, ben­e­fit­ing from three sets of crashes that grounded his top chal­lengers in the fi­nal 1.5 miles.

There was no crash ben­e­fit in Reims. The HTC-Columbia squad tried to set up a lead-out for sprinter Mark Cavendish. But Cavendish couldn’t keep up with Pe­tac­chi.

Lau­rent rebours AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Alessandro Pe­tac­chi, sec­ond from right, pushes to the fin­ish line in Stage 4. The Ital­ian also won Stage 1 and has six ca­reer stage vic­to­ries.

Christophe Ena AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Lance Arm­strong, right, ges­tures in the fourth stage. He fin­ished with a group of 163 rid­ers who got the same time as the win­ner.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.