Alessandro Petacchi of Team LPR Brakes, winner of stages in all three of cycling's Grand Tours, blasted back in his first race since the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued him a 12-month suspension. The 34 year-old Italian from La Spezia won the Tour of Britain stage one and, despite being blocked out in stage two to Newbury, he remains fearless in the high-speed sprints.
"After five months away from racing I was afraid of losing some feeling. On the contrary, I was able to refind confidence in the group after a few kilometres – with the drafting, placing the wheel and avoiding traffic islands," Petacchi said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
CAS suspended Petacchi from racing though August 31 after an anti-doping control found him positive for excess use of Salbutamol (asthma drug) during the 2007 Giro d'Italia. (For more details of the Petacchi read Innocently Guilty – the Petacchi case.)
Stage two, 145 kilometres from Milton Keynes to Newbury, did not end as smoothly as stage one to London. Australia's Matthew Goss prevailed over Julian Dean and Chris Sutton, with 'Ale-Jet' in sixth.
"It was bad and dangerous," Petacchi said of the finale. "At three kilometres, there was a small road – tight and amongst homes – all in and out. A big road was followed by another small road. Also, there was a crash. The last curve was at 200 metres. When I got there I was in seventh or eighth, and the sprint had already started."
Despite finishing in sixth, Petacchi still holds the leader's yellow jersey. Today, the race continues with a 185-kilometre stage to Burnham-on-Sea.