By Gregor Brown
Not in the twelve year history of the of GP Etruschi has one rider won three-times; retired sprinter Mario Cipollini won twice but, Saturday, it was his compatriot, Alessandro Petacchi (Milram), who stormed to victory for the third year in a row. Not only did he put his name firmly in the race's annals but he also gave himself the needed win after being off the top step of the podium for 293 days.
Ale-Jet, 33 years-old from La Spezia, went long in the sprint, avoided a crash and came out on top of Italians Balducci and Bennati. "The key point in Etruschi is not the sprint but the descent that takes you from five to two kilometres to go," remarked Petacchi after the race to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "You take on a lot of speed, and if you lose a wheel, it is difficult to come back. It was in this point that we [Milram] got lost."
Petacchi is still working out the fine details of his sprint train. He explained, "[Brett] Lancaster and [Volodymyr] Dyudya had lost their positions and had to work to re-enter. With two kilometres we arrived on the left and them on the right. Dyudya was able to get back but not Lancaster.
"Then Dyudya did everything; on his wheel was Fabio Baldato [Lampre-Fondital]. ... Then [Alberto] Ongarato took over with one kilometre to go; too much. As the metres passed the speed slowed. Ongarato did all he could, then at some point Enrico Degano [Barloworld] attacked. Marco Velo did everything possible and then Steven De Jongh [Quickstep-Innergetic] attacked with the wind at his back."
He had to get on to the Dutchman's wheel. "I had to do two sprints; one to get back on and the other to the finish line. Two times is no joke. If I had had someone on my wheel then I would have lost."
From Italy he will travel to Portugal for the Volta Algarve, followed by the Volta Valenciana, Tirreno-Adriatico and then his early season goal, Milano-Sanremo. Objectives for the year? "Just one. To win. Everything."