By Jean-François Quénet in Scarperia
Alessandro Petacchi won his 21st Giro stage Saturday by outsprinting Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Paolo Bettini (Quickstep - Innergetic) in a mass field sprint on the Mugello race track in Tuscany at the end of Stage 7. Neither of his competitors had the legs to come around the surging Milram rider who led a bunch of 148 racers toward a congested finish.
"I had good sensations and I was able to make a great sprint," said Petacchi after logging his second win in this year's Giro. "I know that that there were other sprinters who were more tired than me [after the climb]. The team really put its faith in me."
Petacchi was helped by his teammates, who did a majority of the work today; he had six men in the front with three kilometres to go until the nervous finale.
"I am getting better day by day," Petacchi said. "I think all the bad moments have passed. I am now restarting and doing the sprints how I should be doing them. I think Hushovd did very well today, he showed a lot of force. I think McEwen [finished 14th - ed.] suffered a little on the climb but tomorrow will be another day and I will watch for him."
It was a special day for the Tour of Italy, one which paid tribute to the late Gastone Nencini who had won the Giro 50 years ago - and the 1960 Tour de France as well. Tuscany had obviously prepared the stage finish on the car racing circuit of Mugello for a long time. It was a big success in the grandstands where the crowd could see the athletes going much slower than usual motor sports competitors.
"It was a sprint requiring great power," the stage winner underlined. "As the road was slightly uphill, I don't think we were going very fast, probably no more than 65km/h. As for myself, I felt I was able to push hard on the pedals, that's how I built my victory and I'm very happy to have won after 250 kilometres of racing. It means I'm back for good after all the problems following my crash one year ago."
Petacchi was enchanted by the atmosphere of the circuit. "I remember I finished the Vuelta once in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in front of 20,000 people at least. Cycling must go where there is the capacity to welcome the huge crowds. I believe this finish was extremely spectacular."
Pink jersey Marco Pinotti added that "it was safer as well". In fact, no crash occurred and the risk was lower than in town centres. Stage 8 finishes on the legendary circuit of Maranello, the home of Ferrari, so it will be another occasion to enjoy a venue built for racing.