Not that Mark Cavendish is one to revel in the misfortune of others, but if on Monday night he was looking for consolation, the Manxman could take heart from the fact that defending champion Alessandro Petacchi’s 2011 Tour de France green jersey campaign is even further behind schedule than his own.
While Cavendish chewed bitterly over the race jury’s decision to strip him of the 10 points he’d earned in stage 3’s intermediate sprint in Saint-Hilaire-de-Challéons, Petacchi was left contemplating a meagre current points tally of four and a massive 60 point deficit from green jersey holder José Joaquin Rojas.
Having opted out of the earlier intermediate sprint, Petacchi finished out of the points again on the finish-line in Redon, way down in 161st place.
"I was right on Cavendish’s wheel but then he left a gap with two kilometres to go and I was suddenly way too far back," the veteran Italian explained on Monday night. "I was moving back up but then, on the last corner, Samuel Dumoulin crashed, and that was the end of my sprint.
"The intermediate sprint, I didn’t do, because I’d rather concentrate on winning stages for now," he went on. "It would have cost me too much effort. Last year, I won the green jersey by initially getting stage victories and building up a lead. That’s pretty much going to be my tactic again this year."
Even before Cavendish’s unorthodox manoeuvre with two kilometres to go, a brief surge off the front by Petacchi’s lead-out man Danilo Hondo had raised eyebrows. Petacchi said tonight that the explanation was simple: "I sent Danilo to the front just to raise the pace, because I prefer faster sprints and the speed was too low."
Speaking to Cyclingnews, Hondo concurred: "It was the usual, crazy first Tour de France sprint, but the speed had fallen at that point and I wanted to go to the front to quicken things up again. I just ended up going a bit too fast and off the front of the bunch.
"In any case, Alessandro was on Cavendish’s wheel and there was nothing more I could do," Hondo continued. "HTC didn’t get it right today but they’re still the best train in the world, and on their wheel is the best place to be."