The battle for sprint supremacy sees the former King emerge
HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish came into this Tour de France overtly confident as usual, and prepared to back up his statements made in the months leading up to the race. However, with just two sprint stages contested the Manxman has seen himself on the pavement and then finishing well behind in twelfth place, while evergreen Alessandro Petacchi has powered his way to a pair of victories.
"I'm disappointed about today," admitted Cavendish. "I felt really good during the stage. I feel sorry for my teammates who rode unbelievably and I just didn't finish it off at the end."
Going into stage five Cavendish's trusty leadout man Mark Renshaw has accumulated twice the points towards the green jersey competition as his leader, but the team's plan is to continue to stand by their star sprinter.
"Things didn't go perfectly for us today but we are going to regroup as a team and work on tomorrow's execution," sports director Rolf Aldag said after the stage. "Other teams did a great job today. We'll make some adjustments and be back in it tomorrow."
The Manx Missle will look to fine-tune his trajectory and try again for the win tomorrow: "We're really motivated as a team and I'm going to go out there tomorrow and give it one hundred percent again," explained Cavendish.
"Congratulations to Alessandro [Petacchi] for another great stage win."
The Italian from La Spezia took over the throne as top sprinter from compatriot Mario Cipollini, and now looks to have the form he hasn't shown for several years. Petacchi's stage win at the recent Tour de Suisse and his first at this year's Tour were taken in front of crashes, but today he confirmed he's back to the same level that earned him the nickname Ale-Jet.
"This was a perfect sprint, and today I also had perfect legs. I think yesterday's efforts on the cobblestones helped me to be very good today," Petacchi said after notching his sixth Tour de France stage win.
Last year Petacchi used his experience to defeat a nearly unbeatable Cavendish at the Giro d'Italia, and today's success echoed his previous tactics.
"I didn't want to wait for Cavendish or Hushovd to start the sprint," he explained, "so thanks to an outstanding move by [teammate Danilo] Hondo I began my sprint at 300 meters to go and had a powerful sprint on the left side of the road that had a slight rise."
His Lampre-Farnese Vini team worked hard to put the Tuscan in position to prove he still has what it takes to win at the Tour. "The victory is because of the efforts made for me by the team," he said. "Today I won without a crash. I dedicate the success to all of the team sponsors and to my mother - today is her birthday!"
Petacchi currently sits 10 points behind Thor Hushovd in the green jersey competition and, if he continues to uncork sprints like he did today off of a motivated Lampre team, he could very well be the Norwegian's biggest competition for his title defense.