Staying at the zenith
After another amazing year, Alessandro Petacchi has confirmed that he is the man to beat in the sprints. With 15 stage wins in Grand Tours in 2004, Petacchi is always conscious that it is harder to repeat such a successful year, but remains positive, modest and confident in his form. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez caught up with him to see how things are going for him this off-season.
A common sporting catchphrase is "It's harder to stay at the top than to reach it". Italy's Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) seems to have overcome the difficulty of staying at the zenith of the best sprinters in the world. He had a tremendous 2003, amazingly winning 15 stages in Grand Tours (six in the Giro d'Italia, four in the Tour de France and five in the Vuelta a España). He had already said to the press that his 2004 season would be tougher for him, as the previous year was brilliant.
Nonetheless, last year was as good as 2003. Petacchi won 13 stages in Grand Tours (nine in the Giro and four in the Vuelta). And by winning nine stages in the Giro, he broke a record that nobody else had since World War II. Alessandro didn't succeed in the Grand Boucle, but he prevailed in four stages in the Spanish competition, showing that the flat stages in the big races are his.
Petacchi faces 2005 trying to remain as effective and unbeatable as he was over the last two seasons. Apart from the three big competitions of the calendar, he will aim for the World Championships in a country he really enjoys: Spain.
Although he is very famous and successful, he remains as meek as an unknown rider. Maybe that's his secret, not to think he is invincible. Cyclingnews spoke to him on the phone before Fassa Bortolo's recent training camp. The Italian was in Marina di Massa, a small town by the Tirreno Sea near La Spezia, the city where he was born 31 years ago.
Cyclingnews: How is your pre season going?
Alessandro Petacchi: Good, I'm fine. I am currently training well at home. The weather allows good training, it's not so cold. I'm training well. I like how I'm training this winter. I find myself a little bit better than last year.
CN: In which part of Italy do you live?
AP: In Marina di Massa, approximately 60 kilometres from Pisa. It's a very nice place to live with 10, 12 grades [centigrade] in the day. It's very unusual to have two and three grades; one can train well. If one goes to the inner part of the region, one is able to see as many climbs as he wants. One can train well here.
CN: Your 2004 season was better or worse than your 2003 season?
AP: I think it was more or less the same. I think that, like in life, to repeat big achievements with many victories from former years is very difficult. In everything the next year is more difficult than the first one. Because people expect things, the team expect that you have a good season, as the former year you had a great season and everybody thinks it is so normal that you get many triumphs. So, that makes you a little nervous during the winter training. All the people talk, everybody, the media, the TV; they are all waiting for big results. However, this year I take things easily because after very good seasons I train well and I am calm. Everything goes fine, I will do a season similar to the last one. That's what I hope. But, of course, I don't have the crystal ball.