Petacchi takes five; Heras makes history
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) didn't surprise too many people today by winning the final stage of the Vuelta a España in a bunch sprint in Madrid. But in what could well be a dress rehearsal for next week's World Championships, Petacchi had to work for it as his team didn't quite get its train in order in the hectic final kilometres. After the U-turn with 600m to go, it was all uphill to the line, and Petacchi was able to pass Marco Zanotti (Liquigas) in the final 100 metres to claim victory, with Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) once again second, and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) third.
In winning the stage and all three intermediate sprints, Petacchi also took home the points jersey from Roberto Heras. Both finished on equal points, but Petacchi had more stage wins to his credit.
The stage was a relatively easy one for four time Vuelta champ Heras, whose team barely had to work to keep him out of trouble on the Madrid World's circuit. Luis Pasamontes (Relax) and Alexandre Botcharov (Credit Agricole) provided the main break of the day, attacking with two laps (34 km) to go to gain up to 27 seconds, before they were caught on the last lap. Then it was attack and counter attack to try and prevent a bunch sprint. But no-one could, and Petacchi won the stage, and Heras an unprecedented fourth Vuelta a España.