Tour de France: Petacchi rides by the turmoil
Alessandro Petacchi emerged unscathed from a crash-strewn opening to the 2010 Tour de France to claim his first stage victory in cycling's most prestigious race since 2003.
The Lampre-Farnese sprinter, who won four stages seven years ago, was fortunate to avoid three major crashes in the final three kilometres of the 223.5km stage south along the North Sea coast from Rotterdam to Brussels.
The general classification standings were unaffected by the events, with prologue winner Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) retaining the race leader's yellow jersey for today's second stage of the Tour, which sees the peloton travel the 201km from Brussels to Spa.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) went wide on a right-hand bend with 3,000m to go in the Belgian capital, before a second — and this time more major — crash one kilometre later.
Petacchi was the major benefactor, winning the sprint for the line with the 20 or so riders to avoid the second major melee as a third crash happened behind him, wiping out Tyler Farrar's hopes of an American success on Independence Day.
Cavendish's HTC-Columbia lead-out man Mark Renshaw was second and third went to Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team), the winner of the points classification in 2009.
Petacchi takes the green jersey from Briton David Millar (Team Garmin-Transitions), whose progress earlier in the day was temporarily halted after a dog ran into the peloton in one of numerous early incidents.
Petacchi believes even if Cavendish — a winner of six stages in the 2009 Tour — had been in contention late on, he would have prevailed.
Petacchi said: “I'm not sure that Cavendish could beat me if he had been there, because I really did a good sprint.”
Not even race leader Cancellara, adorned in the maillot jaune, escaped incident as he was caught up in the most major crash near the finish.
“Right after the crash I tried to brake but then I somersaulted over the handlebars and landed on the tarmac,” said the Swiss, who won Saturday's 8.9km prologue in Rotterdam.
“It was a long day as well and it might have been that the crashes were down to a loss of concentration because of that.”
Cancellara retained a 10-second lead over Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) in second.
Millar stayed third, Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack) fourth, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) fifth and race favourite Alberto Contador (Astana) sixth.