Veteran Italian learning to live without a lead out
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) finally won his first race of the season at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and is convinced he has shaken off the bad luck and illness that that have wrecked his early season.
Petacchi beat Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Movistar) and Manuel Cardoso (RadioShack) in the sprint in Banyoles on Tuesday. He missed the Tour of Qatar and other races in February due to severe asthma problems and was almost forced to miss Milan-San Remo. He recovered in time to ride, finishing 12th, in the group that was 27 seconds behind winner Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad).
“I’d never ridden Milan-San Remo without having won a race but this is only the start,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“This win is for my son. Before San Remo he gave me a lucky bracelet which I’ll never take off again now. The secret is the ten white stones on it. Ten is the date he was born.”
Petacchi now faces several days of suffering as the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya heads into the hills. He hopes to win Sunday’s flat stage and will then begin preparing for the Giro d’Italia. His only race before the Corsa Rosa will be the Giro del Trentino.
In the summer Petacchi is expected to return to the Tour de France to defend his green points jersey from 2010. During last year’s race he was embroiled in a doping investigation but Italian police and the Italian anti-doping investigators have so far not formalised any charges against the 37-year-old sprinter. His close friend and former teammate Lorenzo Bernucci was caught up in the same investigation and confessed to doping. He was banned for five years, while his wife, mother, father-in-law and brother were given bans of between four and three years.
Petacchi also has his eye on this year’s world championships in Copenhagen. The flat course is expected to suit sprinters and Petacchi is still considered the leading Italian sprinter despite his age.
“The Worlds are still a long way off but I’m up for it.” Petacchi told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“But for now the most important thing is that I get 100% healthy because when I’m at my best I can still compete with the best sprinters in the world. Perhaps I can’t win 20 races a year anymore but that's because I also don’t have the lead out train I once had at other teams.”
Petacchi won the sprint in Catalunya without a lead out train from his Lampre-ISD team. He often has Danilo Hondo to help him in sprints but the German is not riding in Catalunya. Petacchi is pragmatic about the lack of a lead out and is learning to look after himself in the sprints.
“Here in Catalunya we’ve also got Cunego and Scarponi who could perhaps win overall, so I’ve got to look after myself. But that’s okay,” he said.
“With the arrival of ISD, there had to be a certain number of Ukrainian riders in the team. If we add the ones who were already under contract, that left little room to build a train. I’ve only got Hondo but I think he’s the best at what he does. Knowing how to win is in my blood, and I do the rest.”