Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) took an unlikely stage victory in the Tour de Suisse in a dramatic finale that saw Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) collide with Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo TestTeam) and take down the other top sprinters.
Cavendish, unleashing what looked to be a race-winning acceleration, slammed into Haussler as the pair muscled past Milram’s Gerald Ciolek, sending both riders tumbling to the pavement. Ciolek rammed the pair and also went down.
Petacchi emerged from the resulting chaos to take the win ahead of Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil), but, looking back to witness the carnage before crossing the line, did not celebrate his victory.
The Lampre sprinter was not necessarily in contention for the stage victory until the sudden crash. He led a group to the right side of the course, while Cavendish, Ciolek and Haussler were fighting it out ahead down the middle.
“I won but after a crazy finish and huge crash,” Petacchi said. “I committed to one side of the road to launch my sprint. I kept looking across to see where my rivals were but then I noticed a strange movement and heard a huge noise. At that point I just kept going straight ahead because I knew I’d won.
“I’m sorry to have beaten people like Cavendish, Haussler and Ciolek because they were caught up in a crash and I don’t know if I’d have won anyway. But life is strange: after a lot of really bad luck, I was really lucky today.”
While Cavendish and Ciolek escaped injury, Haussler was taken to hospital for examinations after rolling across the line, and Caisse d’Epargne’s Arnaud Coyot was transported from the race in an ambulance with a suspected broken hip.
As a result of the crash, Mark Cavendish is being penalized and fined.
Cavendish is being sanctioned 25 points in the sprinter competition and 30 seconds on the general classification. He also is being fined 200 Swiss francs.
Cavendish appeared to change his line in the sprint, veering into Cervelo’s Heinrich Haussler, causing a crash that brought down a dozen riders. Heinrich’s team announced later that he was leaving the race due to a deep cut on his arm.
“I didn’t see Cavendish coming,” Haussler said in a team statement. “He drove into my wheel and before I knew it, I went down and was lying on the ground. I could have won the stage today.”
Stage 4 results: