Youth yields to age
Alessandro Petacchi hasn’t raced at the Tour de France in six years because of health issues and a doping suspension. Even so, he’s easily shaken the rust of his 36-year-old legs to take the headlines away from sprinter Mark Cavendish, the 25-year- old who won six Tour stages a year ago.
Petacchi has won two stages this week, giving him six Tour stage victories in his career.
Cavendish, meanwhile, is not in the same shape as he was a year ago. He had cosmetic dental surgery earlier this year and then developed an infection. It kept him from putting in the training he needed to prepare fully for the Tour de France.
Riders with HTC-Columbia, Cavendish’s team, set up a perfect lead-out train for him near the end of Stage 4, but he couldn’t keep up with Petacchi.
“I felt really good during the stage,” Cavendish said. “I feel sorry for my teammates who rode unbelievably and I just didn’t finish it off at the end.”
Petacchi had problems earlier this year, suffering from the flu at the Giro d’Italia, the most important race for an Italian star.
He also served an odd suspension related to his use of an asthma medication in 2007. While Petacchi had permission to use the medication, he was found to have used too much of it, although a arbitration court ruling declared his overuse to be unintentional. Still, the court chided him for not using enough caution.
Asthma medication can be considered a performanceenhancing drug because it opens up airways, improving breathing.