Ale-Jet keeps a positive outlook

Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) had a bad 2006 season. He had 'only' 13 wins - ten of them...

An interview with Alessandro Petacchi, Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) had a bad 2006 season. He had 'only' 13 wins - ten of them stage wins, including all five stages of Oddset Rundfahrt and the overall GC. For most riders, this would be the ride of a lifetime, but for a sprinter who took stage wins in all three Grand Tours in 2005, not getting a single tour stage was a big disappointment. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez talked to the dapper Italian to find out how he plans to overcome the setbacks of 2006.

Alessandro 'Ale-Jet' Petacchi started out the season on a good note by continuing his winning form from 2005. He came out flying, winning the GP Costa degli Etruschi , and taking twostages at Vuelta a Andalucia in a 'clash of the titans' against Tom Boonen. Petacchi followed this by bagging two stages at the ComunidadValenciana Tour, then went on to win the Giro della Provincia di Lucca, one stage at Tirreno-Adriatico, before going on to simply demolished the competition by winning all stages and the overall at the Oddset Rundfahrt. But things quickly went south in Petacchi's first major goal of the season, The Giro d’Italia.

Early in the tour, on stage three in Namur, Belgium, a multi-rider crash occurred, sending one rider sliding into Petacchi, hooking his handlebars. Ale-Jet felt over on his left side and hit his left knee hard. Remarkably, Petacchi finished the stage, but an x-ray later than evening showed that he had broken his kneecap. He had to leave the race before it even touched Italian soil. The break required surgery, and the long recovery meant that he also had to miss the Tour de France.

Petacchi was back on the bike in time for the Vuelta a España, and this tour was supposed to be his revenge. But luck wasn’t on his side once again, as he didn’t manage to win a single stage for two reasons: he wasn’t in perfect condition due to his recovery process from surgery for the first two weeks, and then a fit of anger ended his season on stage 15. On the flat stage to Almussafes, Ale-Jet was ready to fly to victory, but once again fate had other plans.

According to the Italian, Daniel Napolitano (Lampre-Fondital) obstructed his way at the final metres, and, unable to do a clear sprint, Petacchi finished 12th that day. He missed his big chance. He was so irritated after the finish that he punched a bus (he said it was his team’s - reports stated it was Lampre’s bus) with his hand so hard that he broke a bone in it and had to quit the Vuelta, too.

Cyclingnews caught up with this tremendous sprinter days after the first training camp with his Milram team. Ale-Jet is on his way for a better 2007, hopefully with less injuries and more joys, especially in the Grand Tours where he already won in 40 stages in former years. "My season has been positive in general", said Alessandro about his up and down season. "I won 13 races in less than half of a season, so I have demonstrated I did well."

The expectations were different at the beginning of 2006. "I had bad luck." Petacchi continued, "It can happen in the life of an athlete. There are seasons when everything goes fine and others when everything doesn’t go right." The 2006 season wasn't bad when measured up against earlier years, so was it that big a disappointment? "I have said before all the seasons are not the same", replied the Italian star. "Let’s say I was going the right way until the crash I had in the Giro d’Italia."

Petacchi takes the good with the bad of the past twelve bittersweet months. "To win 13 races is not a small thing. Besides, I was so very close to a back-to-back win at Milano-Sanremo [he lost the final bunch sprint with Filippo Pozzato and finished second - ed.], and I ended up third at Gent – Wevelgem. I think it wasn’t a bad season."

The Vuelta a España was supposed to be his big race - his redemption - but it wasn’t at all. Ale described the incident which led to his exit from the Spanish Tour. "It happened that I lost control and I hit with my fist the bus of my team. I wasn’t upset with anybody. It is just that I was too eager to win again." Was it unfair that Danilo Napolitano wasn't sanctioned for irregular sprinted? "Napolitano didn’t do anything wrong. That sprint came in a certain way and I was only unlucky." said Petacchi, "It was just that. All the rest is an invention of you journalists!"

With his pre-season is underway, Ale-Jet hopes to get the bad luck behind him and move on to more success next year. "My pre-season is going very well. I am already in good condition, and I hope I can start in a strong way," said Petacchi. Things are going well for him with Team Milram, where he leads the squad together with veteran and multi-champion German’s Erik Zabel. "I am feeling very well. I feel very comfortable will all my teammates and with the team directors. I think we will do a great year."

The 2007 season will be slightly different for the man from La Spezia, Liguria. "It is different from other years; I have started training earlier, and in every case I will try to race more often. I think that the older you get [he will be 33 next January 3 -ed.], the more you have to work," stated Petacchi. The injuries to his hand and knee don't appear to be holding him back in training at all. "I’m doing fine. The hand and the knee are not harming me, and that’s the most important thing."

Petacchi described a typical winter training day: "I get up in the morning, I have breakfast and then I come out for a training session. I am gone from home for between four and six hours. Then I have lunch and I rest for a while. Every so often I walk around with my wife, and in the evenings I watch movies." Cold is always a difficulty that riders face during this time of the year in Europe. But Ale doesn’t have much trouble with it. "Luckily, where I live [in central Italy] it is never very cold. In case it is freezing I can stand it very well."

Standing long winter hours on the bike will be crucial, since his 2007 season will start very early. "I will start riding the Qatar Tour [late January]. Then the GP Donoratico [GP Costa degli Etruschi] in Italy, and Algarve in Portugal." Until then, the end of every year is a time for Ale-Jet to dream of new goals.

"I hope to win Milano-Sanremo again. It is my favourite race," said Alessandro. Could 2007 be his year to lift a trophy he's never achieved - perhaps the world championships in Stuttgart? "I don’t know the [Stuttgart] route yet but Zabel has told me that the parcours fits to our characteristics. It will be ridden in Germany, and that’s very important for me and for my team that has a German sponsor. I hope to be a competitive rider there."

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