Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre Farnese Vini slammed the door shut on Mark Cavendish to win Stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana in Orihuela this afternoon, leaving the HTC-Columbia rider still looking for his first Vuelta stage victory.
Although there was no question that the Italian, winner of the points competition of the Tour de France in July, had deliberately moved across the Manxman’s line, by drifting over to the right during the approach of the finish, there was nowhere for to go for Cavendish, who had Quickstep’s Andreas Stauff on his left.
Cavendish may still be waiting for his first Vuelta victory, but the 36-year-old Petacchi is a seasoned performer in the race, winner of the points jersey in 2005, and today's win taken his total haul to 20 stages spread over the past ten years.
The Italian, nicknamed Ale-Jet for his burst of speed which still hasn't quite diminished as he approaches the tail end of his career, now stands just three stage victories short of completing a half-century of wins in cycling's three Grand Tours.
Today’s stage represented a chance for the sprinters to get the victory ahead of a weekend spent in the mountains, and the race ran true to script with an breakaway getting away early on, allowed to build an advantage of nine minutes at one point.
As with every escape this week, Andalusia-Cajasur were involved, this time through Jorge Martin Montenegro, joined by Martin Pedersen of Footon-Servetto, Milram’s Dominik Roels and Vladimir Isaichev from Xacobeo Galicia.
The catch was made with 5km to go, with race leader Philippe Gilbert once again proving that he is not one to hide his jersey inside the peloton under the protection of his team mates, the Belgian prominent at the front of the race, sitting second wheel as the race entered its closing couple of kilometres.
Lampre’s distinctive pink and blue kits then moved forward to dictate the pace ahead of the finale, although the riders had to react quickly inside the closing couple of kilometres to avoid a truck that had been inexplicably parked on the side of the race route.
Team Sky’s woes continued with the news that Juan Antonio Flecha was the latest rider to have succumbed to the mystery virus that has ravaged its squad in recent days, and the Argentina-born Spaniard has joined team mates John-Lee Augustyn and Ben Swift in abandoning the race..
Vuelta Stage 7 result
1 PETACCHI, Alessandro (Lampre-Farnese Vini) 3h 36' 20''
2 CAVENDISH, Mark (HTC-Columbia) All at same time
3 HAEDO, Juan Jose (Team Saxo Bank)
4 STAUFF, Andreas (Quickstep)
5 FARRAR, Tyler (Garmin-Transitions)
6 GALIMZYANOV, Denis (Katusha)
7 FÖRSTER, Robert (Milram)
8 HINAULT, Sébastien (AG2R La Mondiale)
9 BENNATI, Daniele (Liquigas-Doimo)
10 WEYLANDT, Wouter (Quickstep)
11 GASPAROTTO, Enrico (Astana)
12 HUTAROVICH, Yauheni (Francaise des Jeux)
13 GILBERT, Philippe (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
14 GUARNIERI, Jacopo (Liquigas-Doimo)
15 BONNET, William (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)
16 OFFREDO, Yoann (Francaise des Jeux)
17 BOS, Theo (Cervelo TestTeam)
18 HUSHOVD, Thor (Cervelo TestTeam)
19 HONDO, Danilo (Lampre-Farnese Vini)
20 SENTJENS, Roy (Milram)
Vuelta overall standings after Stage 7
1 GILBERT, Philippe (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 22h 36' 26''
2 ANTON, Igor (Euskaltel-Euskadi) + 10"
3 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin (Katusha) + 10"
4 NIBALI, Vincenzo (Liquigas-Doimo) + 12"
5 VELITS, Peter (HTC-Columbia) + 16"
6 VAN GARDEREN, Tejay (HTC-Columbia) + 29"
7 SCHLECK, Frank (Team Saxo Bank) + 50"
8 PLAZA, Ruben (Caisse d'Epargne) + 54"
9 MOSQUERA, Ezequiel (Xacobeo-Galicia) + 55"
10 ROCHE, Nicholas (AG2R La Mondiale) + 58"
11 BRUSEGHIN, Marzio GCE + 1' 01''
12 ARROYO, David (Caisse d'Epargne) + 1' 01"
13 TONDO, Xavier (Cervelo TestTeam) + 1' 07"
14 MENCHOV, Denis (Rabobank) + 1' 11"
15 DANIELSON, Thomas (Garmin-Transitions) + 1' 21"
16 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León (Caisse d'Epargne) + 1' 24"
17 PERAUD, Jean-Christophe (Omega Pharma-Lotto) + 1' 33''
18 URAN, Rigoberto (Caisse d'Epargne) + 1' 37''
19 KARPETS, Vladimir (Katusha) + 1' 42''
20 BAKELANDTS, Jan (Omega Pharma-Lotto) + 2' 19''
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.