Cycling: Petacchi's dash foils Cavendish

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The Independent Online

Mark Cavendish's run of near misses in the Tour of Spain continued yesterday with a second place behind Italy's Alessandro Petacchi in the race's third bunch sprint.

Cavendish's HTC-Columbia squad had worked hard to place the Manxman in the right position for the final dash for the line in Orihuela in south-east Spain.

But the Briton was blocked behind Petacchi when the Lampre veteran charged away with 150 metres to go for the 20th Vuelta stage win of his career. Well before Cavendish could get a clear run at the finish, Petacchi already had his arms in the air.

For Petacchi, victory was a welcome break from a seemingly interminable series of encounters with his lawyers over alleged links to a doping investigation.

The Italian is waiting for a verdict from CONI, the Italian anti-doping authorities, and if suspended – for the second time in his career – will be immediately pulled from the race by his team.

"I've spent more time in lawyers' offices in the last month than I have done with my family," Petacchi said. "It's been a really rough period in my life.

"Winning today is a huge relief, it's taken my mind off all those problems."

He was dismissive of Cavendish's late acceleration, saying: "I saw him out of the tail of my eye, but that was it."

Cavendish's third straight defeat was overshadowed by the news that a Sky team assistant, Txema Gonzalez, part of their Tour of Spain support staff, had died of a massive bacterial infection that developed into sepsis.

Gonzalez, 43, was hospitalised last Sunday in Seville and died late yesterday afternoon.

In a press release, the team stated that Gonzalez's illness was not related to the viral infection that had affected all of the team and which led to one rider, Juan Antonio Flecha, pulling out yesterday.