Alessandro Petacchi hadn’t won a stage in the Tour de France since 2003 and surprisingly the most successful sprinter of the last decade has only raced fourteen days (in 2003 and 2004) at the world’s biggest race.
He won four stages in 2003 but quit the 2004 after stage six and had not returned the Tour since then.
“It’s been partly my choice that I haven’t come back at the Tour de France for the past six years, partly because of a crash and also for other reasons." Petacchi said.
The Italian fractured his kneecap on stage 3 of the 2006 Giro d’Italia and that accident almost ended his career. A positive dope test for Salbutamol at the 2007 Giro d’Italia was another blow. He was eventually banned and lost some of his victories. Since then the anti-doping regulations have changed and a high level of Salbutamol no longer sparks a positive test if the athlete suffers from allergies and has a Therapeutic Use Exemption certificate. Petacchi had the Tour de France on his program in 2008 but he lost his CAS appeal and subsequently lost his job at Milram and was banned in July.
“This morning at the start of the stage, I felt the tension of the Tour de France again”, Petacchi said with a hint of satisfaction.
“During the stage, the memories of the last two Tour de France I did, came back to mind. It’s wonderful to win again at the Tour. It was a risky sprint. But to win at my age (36) gives me hopes for the future. I’m contracted with Lampre again for next year. This is also a reward for the Galbusera family, who own the Lampre company and for Team Manager Giuseppe Saronni who have believed in my comeback.”
Petacchi refuted the idea that his win was unexpected and the result of Mark Cavendish’s crash.
“There’s always a lot of confusion in the first sprint of the Tour”, the Italian said. “I don’t know what happened to Cavendish and Freire but there were still a lot of other sprinters to beat! There was a strong headwind too. I started from a long way out. I took a risk but I also knew it would have been difficult to go back up to people. I’ve done a great sprint. Had Cavendish still been there, it’s not sure I would have lost to him.”
Last year Petacchi was faster than Cavendish at the end of stage one in the Giro d’Italia. His spectacular come back at the Tour de France might have been a fortunate win but showed he is back to his best after six years away from the Tour.