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Petacchi forced out of Vuelta a Espana

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) celebrates his first stage win of the Vuelta.

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) celebrates his first stage win of the Vuelta. (Image credit: AFP Photo)

Alessandro Petacchi's difficult 2010 season continued after he was forced out of the Vuelta a Espana by a crash on Saturday. He will return to his home in Italy to face another doping challenge.

The Lampre-Farnesi Vini sprinter won Friday's stage, beating Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia at the line. It was his 19th career Vuelta stage win, and his eighth victory this season.

However things turned sour early in Saturday's seventh stage, as he went down with a number of other riders shortly before the first intermediate sprint. He had several abrasions and a cut on his right elbow which required stitches. Petacchi was able to finish the stage.

"It's a pity to quit the race right now as my legs were going better and better.” he told Eurosport.

"In the end, I couldn't do anything. The abrasions were so large that I couldn't go to the masseur and during the night I could not sleep. Also, today I couldn't hold the handlebars.

"The only comfort is that I won a stage before the crash."

Team doctor Matteo Beltemacchi said that he was worried about the open wound on the elbow. "In fact it was necessary to give stitches and to begin a course of antibiotics.

"During the night Alessandro could not sleep, his arm was totally raw and he had pain in the back and back side. Petacchi tried to stick it out, but he could not hold the handlebars and he was pedalling in a bad position.

"It was not possible to go on in this way."

The 36-year-old said that he is waiting for word from the Italian Olympic Committee as to whether it would refer or drop an investigation as to whether he used illegal doping products. He would face a lifetime suspension if he is found to have violated the rules.