Alessandro Petacchi edged out an irate Mark Cavendish to win the first mass sprint of this year's Giro d'Italia in Parma yesterday, although the Briton had the consolation of taking the general classification lead. Cavendish was furious as they crossed the finish line and gesticulated at the Italian who he felt had not held his line in the final 200 metres, although the race jury upheld the finishing order.
"I'm happy to have the maglia rosa [pink jersey] after a hard stage for the team. Petacchi is a good guy but in the last 200 metres he moved three times. The judges usually relegate someone when they do that," Cavendish said.
Petacchi defended himself, though. "I don't think I did anything wrong in the sprint," he said. "When you see someone coming up you go looking for him and I moved a bit, but I didn't do anything wrong. But I apologise if I did."
Cavendish had started the stage tied on time with HTC-Highroad team-mate and overnight leader Marco Pinotti, but the time bonuses at the finish put Cavendish into the maglia rosa.
It was Germany's Sebastian Lang of Omega Pharma-Lotto who attacked first yesterday in the longest stage of this year's Giro to build up a lead of nearly 20 minutes. With 50 kilometres to go, the gap had dropped to four minutes and the lead was wiped out as Lang and the field took on the day's sole categorised climb. An eight-man group formed and gained 30 seconds on the field but they were also reeled in.
Various sprinters' teams contributed to the pace-making until the Garmin-Cervelo squad took control 1.5km from the finish line. HTC-Highroad's Mark Renshaw soon moved up with Cavendish in tow, but Petacchi jumped to the right to pass Cavendish and claim victory.