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Petacchi may get his shot in stage 5

Italian sprint king Alessandro Petacchi, the postwar record holder for the number of stage wins on a single edition of the Giro d'Italia, is patiently awaiting his chance to grab a stage victory on this year's Tour de France. And the 30-year-old Fassa Bortolo rider could decide to finally get his act together on Thursday's 200.5km fifth stage. The largely flat outlay of the course is exactly to Petacchi's liking, although the soft-spoken Italian and the rest of the sprinters will have to be wary of influential cross winds that could lead to breaks in the peloton and end their chances of

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By Agence France Presse

Italian sprint king Alessandro Petacchi, the postwar record holder for the number of stage wins on a single edition of the Giro d’Italia, is patiently awaiting his chance to grab a stage victory on this year’s Tour de France.

And the 30-year-old Fassa Bortolo rider could decide to finally get his act together on Thursday’s 200.5km fifth stage. The largely flat outlay of the course is exactly to Petacchi’s liking, although the soft-spoken Italian and the rest of the sprinters will have to be wary of influential cross winds that could lead to breaks in the peloton and end their chances of fighting it out at the finish. A favorable gust of wind in the right direction on the plains between Amiens and Chartres could lead to an early breakaway – although so far in the race none have succeeded.

CSC rider Jakob Piil, in the first two days, and his German teammate Jens Voigt on Tuesday’s third stage, tried it but ultimately had to succumb to the law of the sprinters after being chased down.

Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) has been on super form so far, as have AG2R sprinters Jaan Kirsipuu and Jean-Patrick Nazon – all of whom have claimed stage victories in the race.

But Petacchi is finding the going tougher here than he did in the Giro. The Italian was expected to rule the roost in the first week on mainly flat racing – by this time last year, he had already bagged three stages on the way to four in total. So far, he’s won none, and Fassa Bortolo team boss Giancarlo Ferretti is getting concerned.

“Obviously I’m not too happy. To win a sprint everything has to fall into place,” said Ferretti. “It seems like our train is working well, but for the moment Petacchi is not up to scratch.”

Petacchi has been close, finishing eighth twice in the first two days of racing. However, on Tuesday the Italian missed the sprint altogether, coming home with a bunch of riders at five seconds adrift of Jean-Patrick Nazon as the Frenchman surged past to beat Erik Zabel (T-Mobile), in second, and McEwen.

On Thursday, Petacchi may just decide that enough is enough, and appease his experienced team boss.