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Top Italian sprinters Alessandro Petacchi and Mario Cipollini have both pulled out of the Tour de France with injuries.
Petacchi, the world’s No. 1, injured his shoulder when he crashed in Thursday’s fifth stage. The Fassa Bortolo team leader, who won four stages in the flat sections in last year’s Tour, had a disappointing start and failed to challenge in the first three big sprints.
He won nine stages in the Giro d’Italia in May but was lying 83rd, 13 minutes off the pace, when he called it a day.
The 37-year-old Cipollini had been struggling with a leg infection from a crash in the Giro, where he managed only six stages, and had failed to shine in the first five stages in France. He usually withdraws before the Tour hits the mountain stages but this time he has gone early as the Tour does not reach the Pyrenees until July 16.
It was probably his last Tour. The 2002 world champion, who had not competed in the Tour de France since 1999, had sprinted to 12 stage wins in previous years.