By Gregor Brown in Tignes
Milram Directeur Sportif Vittorio Algeri has been guiding his team through the 2007 Tour in search of a stage win without star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, who was sidelined just prior to the Tour. The 33 year-old sprinter had a non-negative test for the asthma drug Salbutamol during this year's Giro d'Italia. Although he had dispensation for the asthma product, the levels that were recorded at the Giro were abnormally high, leading to CONI's investigation and his team has had to search for wins without him.
"Today (stage 8 to Tigne) we will try to have all the riders together at the finish and basta," Algeri said to Cyclingnews from Bergamo on Sunday morning in Le Grand-Bornand. "This is our big objective. We want to have Zabel in Green for Paris but our first objective is to win a stage."
Zabel became Milram's sprint-man when Petacchi was sidelined by his case with CONI. "I have not heard from (Petacchi) in these last days but we are waiting for the 24th (for Petacchi's hearing in front of the the Italian Cycling Federation)," Algeri said. "We have a lot of faith but we are also worried because these days there is an atmosphere to find guilt at any cost. And maybe in this moment they don't use the same scale for everyone. For a simple spray, he maybe could be disqualified for year. This would be truly too much.
Some sponsors have pulled out in cycling's dark moments but Algeri says he believes Milram has faith and he is assured by his riders' performance in the first week of the Tour. "We are in difficult time. However, in the first week of the Tour we have made a lot of publicity for the team with the riders and the escapes. Zabel had the green jersey, and for all of this they are content. There is bad publicity but there is also a lot of good publicity. I think they will go on [as a sponsor]."
Algeri added that Petacchi is watching the Tour on television and wished he was in France with the team. "It would have been great to have Petacchi here and winning stages. He is pedaling very well and left the Giro with good form. It is a true shame."
As for Zabel's chances at the Green jersey, stage eight discarded some of Erik Zabel's competition for the sprints including Mark Cavendish, Robbie McEwen and Danilo Napolitano. "Now we are looking for the stages after the Alps. The transitional stages will see escapes go clear and we will count on always having someone in those escapes. And then, maybe it will arrive in a sprint."