Mark Cavendish was yet again denied a sprint stage win in the Vuelta a Espana today when Alessandro Petacchi won the seventh stage into Orihuela.
The Italian crossed the line a length ahead of Cavendish after the Manxman found himself boxed in by the final manoeuvres of the bunch gallop.
Cavendish had opened his sprint from on the wheel of fourth place finisher Andrea Stauff but couldn't find a gap to come past Petacchi. By the line, Cavendish was practically freewheeling.
It was another hot day on the Vuelta and just two kilometres out of the start town of Murcia the early break got the slip.
The quartet of Dominik Roels (Milram), Martin Pedersen (Footon-Servetto), Vladimir Isaichev, (Xacobeo Galicia) and Jorge Montenegro (Andalucia Cajasur) spent almost the entire stage out front, gaining a maximum of nine minutes.
But after a concerted chase headed by Lampre, FDJ, Garmin-Transitions and HTC-Columbia, the race came back down to the expected bunch finish. Cavendish's next stab at a stage win will now have to wait until after the weekend.
One consolation for Cavendish is that he has taken the lead in the points classification and will wear the green jersey going into stage eight.
Vuelta a Espana 2010, stage seven
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 187.1km in 4-36-12
2. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia
3. Juan-Jose Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank
4. Andreas Stauff (Ger) Quick Step
5. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions
6. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
7. Robert Forster (Ger) Milram
8. Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
9. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
10. Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step all same time
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 27-12-38
2. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 10sec
3. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha at same time
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 12sec
5. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia at 16sec
6. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Columbia at 29sec
7. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 50sec
8. Ruben Plaza (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 54sec
9. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 55sec
10. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 58sec
Stage seven scenery
Dominik Roels heads the break
David Zabriskie leads the chase
Alessandro Petacchi wins the stage
Mark Cavendish leads the points classification
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Related links
Stage six: Hushovd demonstrates climbing skills on way to Vuelta win
Stage five: Farrar beats Cavendish for Vuelta stage win
Stage four: Anton wins stage but Gilbert keeps red jersey
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three: Gilbert attacks to win stage and take race lead
Stage two: Hutarovich beats Cavendish to Vuelta stage win
Vuelta stage one: Cavendish leads after HTC-Columbia win team time trial
The British riders to have led one of the grand tours
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index