Alessandro Petacchi Takes Win in Crash-Marred Stage 4 Finish
Heinrich Haussler and Mark Cavendish crash in final meters of stage 4 of 2010 Tour de Suisse; Tony Martin maintains overall race lead.
Alessandro Petacchi won the fourth stage of the 2010 Tour de Suisse / Tour of Switzerland 2010 earlier today after a multi-bike crash took down many other riders in a frenzied final sprint.
Tony Martin of Germany retained the race lead even though he was delayed by the spill at the end of the 192-kilometer (119-mile) ride on wind-swept hills from Schwarzenburg to Wettingen.
Lance Armstrong, who is using the nine-day event as a final warm-up before the Tour de France next month, was not mixed up in the crash, his team said.
Sprint specialist Mark Cavendish of Britain was narrowly leading Germany's Heinrich Haussler when Cavendish' front wheel collapsed and they bumped and tumbled to the road with 30 meters (yards) left. Several others went down too.
"I was far behind, and I didn't have any chance to win otherwise," said Petacchi, clearly unsatisfied that his victory came because of a mishap. "Maybe the wind had something to do with this unfortunate finish."
Haussler, a Cervelo TestTeam rider who won the second stage on Sunday, and France's Arnaud Coyot were taken to hospital for treatment, race organizers said.
Details on their injuries weren't immediately available.
Cavendish's HTC-Columbia team said he sustained bruises and scrapes but was otherwise unhurt, and was likely to take the start of the fifth stage Wednesday. It said he would undergo X-rays as a precaution.
Cavendish, a 25-year-old native of the Isle of Man, is one of the world's top sprinters. He won six stages at the Tour de France last year.
Martin, a teammate of Cavendish, said: "About 1,000 meters from the finish, I could tell it was going to be a nervous sprint, caused partly by the wind and a narrow path between the barriers."
The team said earlier Tuesday that its leader, Michael Rogers of Australia, the winner of last month's Tour of California, pulled out of the race before the stage to focus on training for the Tour de France at high altitude.
Under race rules, riders in the main bunch at the front all receive the same final times when a crash occurs during a sprint in within the last kilometer.
Because of that rule, Petacchi clocked the same time as 104 other riders, including Martin, Armstrong and Cavendish: 4 hours, 57 minutes, 33 seconds.
Overall, Martin leads Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara, the winner of Saturday's prologue, by one second, while Thomas Lovkvist of Sweden is third, nine seconds behind. Armstrong is 22nd, 30 seconds back of the German.
Riders got off at a snail's pace. Brice Feillu didn't play along and burst out of the pack around the 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) mark. The French rider, who won a Tour de France stage last year in the Pyrenees, built a lead of more than nine minutes only to be reeled in with 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) to go.
With the pack at cruising speed, Armstrong could be seen chatting with riders, including Cavendish. The Texan seven-time Tour de France champion didn't speak to reporters after the stage.
"What a day. What a final," Armstrong wrote on his Twitter feed. "Nasty crash in the sprint that involved many. Damn, this game is dangerous. Hope all the guys are ok."
Wednesday's stage takes riders on a 172.5-kilometer (107.2-mile) course from Wettingen to Frutigen. The race ends Sunday with a time trial in and around Liestal.