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The polka-dot jersey was decided Friday and the yellow jersey will probably be finalized on Saturday, but the green jersey should come down to the final sprint into Paris.
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) swarmed a dying Thor Hushovd (Cervélo) in the vapors of Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia), who charged to his fourth Tour de France stage victory this year. It’s a three-man race with 35 points up for grabs on the Champs-Elysées.
“Nothing is won today,” said Petacchi, who forfeited the jersey to Hushovd in the Pyrénées. “I am happy to have the green jersey again, but I know I need to make a strong sprint in Paris to win it. It will not be easy.”
Petacchi scooped up 26 points to take a 10-point lead on Hushovd, who faded in the final charge to the line despite a text-book lead-out from his Cervélo teammates Jeremy Hunt and Brett Lancaster. Hushovd had nothing left when Petacchi and Cavendish dashed toward the line and finished a disappointing 14th.
The two-time green jersey winner all but conceded defeat Friday, saying with the way he’s sprinting this year, he has no chance to make up the difference in Paris.
“It was a very hard sprint today. We went to the front too early. The headwind was strong and I couldn’t finish off the sprint. I haven’t been able to sprint very well this entire Tour and it continued again today. It’s over for me for the green jersey. That’s life,” Hushovd said. “I will try to make a good sprint on the Champs-Elysées. I am very satisfied with this Tour de France.”
Hushovd will be haunted by the decision of the pack to neutralize the second stage to Spa, when Cervélo had dropped Cavendish and Petacchi and made it safely down a wet and treacherous descent. Dozens of riders crashed in their wake and Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) orchestrated the other riders to neutralize the stage. That cost Hushovd a likely victory and 35 points, more than enough to have carried him to Paris in green.
Cavendish still has an outside shot at the green. He won easily in Bordeaux without the presence of ace set-up man Mark Renshaw, who was kicked out of the race in the second week in a controversial decision by the race jury.
Without Renshaw, HTC-Columbia did its fair share of the work to reel in a four-man breakaway and then put Cavendish on Hushovd’s wheel.
Petacchi opened up an early sprint, which played into Cavendish’s favor, who used the big Italian to shield him from heavy finish-line wins and then dart to his easiest win so far in this Tour.
Cavendish is the hot favorite to win for the second year in a row on the Champs-Elysées, but could well end up on the short end of the stick in the green jersey battle for the second year in a row despite being the Tour’s top sprinter. Cavendish missed out on early-Tour points that cost him a good chance to win.
“The main thing is to win Sunday,” Cavendish said. “I had some bad luck to start the Tour, but I’ve won stages now. It was hard getting through the Pyrénées, but I showed again I can do it.”
Cavendish could still end the Tour in green if he wins to take 35 points and have both Petacchi and Hushovd finish well down in the sprint. Stranger things have happened.