(Reuters) – Green can wait for Mark Cavendish, who missed out on the best sprinter’s jersey at the Tour de France for the second year in succession to a more experienced rider, Italian Alessandro Petacchi.
The Briton won his fifth stage of the 2010 Tour on the Champs Elysees Sunday and became the first sprinter to triumph twice in succession on the famous Parisian avenue, which has hosted the race finale since 1975.
With 15 stage wins at the age of 25, Cavendish is certainly the most gifted sprinter of the last two decades but he finished 11 points behind a rider 11 years his senior who fully deserved the reward.
Even though he only won two stages, the 36-year-old Petacchi was more consistent and Cavendish, plagued by doubts in the first week of the race, lost vital points in the early stages.
“I had a poor start, I was wondering if I could make it but we kept trying. When you arrive in Paris for the most spectacular finish in the world, you have a feeling of accomplishment which by far exceeds the disappointment,” Cavendish said.
“Sorry I could not do more.”
While Cavendish has many seasons ahead of him to become the first Briton to win the green jersey, Petacchi crowned an exceptional career with cycling’s most coveted trophy for a sprinter.
The most successful active rider with 155 victories, Petacchi joined a select list of sprinters who have won the green jersey in the big three Tours. The last man to do so was France’s Laurent Jalabert in 1999.
The Lampre rider topped the points classification in the Giro d’Italia in 2004 and at the Spanish Vuelta in 2005.
With 46 stage wins in the three majors, Petacchi’s record is only surpassed by his compatriot Mario Cipollini, who won 57 stages. He also became the first Italian to take the green jersey since Franco Bitossi in 1968.
Yet the Italian might not be able to celebrate when he returns home. He was notified by government officials before the Tour that he is being formally investigated by Italian police for allegedly using illegal substances.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)