André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) might have been a little unfair in his comments when he suggested that Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) was responsible for the massive crash that brought riders like Jurgen Roelandts and Frederic Guesdon to the ground. “Petacchi went from left to right. He didn’t care about the crash. He’s a big star but he shouldn’t do this and just keep the line,” was the German’s first reaction after his win on stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under in Clare.
“What happened? The stage victory was determined by the photo-finish and the winner was Greipel,” Petacchi reacted to Cyclingnews. “The crash? I have no idea how it happened. It was all behind me. I heard something though.” The televised images of the last kilometre showed that Petacchi’s deviation in the final sprint wasn’t completely from left to right. Race officials didn’t see it as a breach of regulations.
“My mistake was to open the sprint too early,” Petacchi explained. “I was at the front with 200 metres to go. I’m happy with the sprint I’ve done today even though it wasn’t easy to race in such heat. However, with such a terrain and a downhill finish, it was perfect for Greipel. It was a big advantage for him. With the condition and power he’s got these days, it’s no surprise that he has won but it was tight…”
“I’m used to winning my first race of the year,” the Italian had said on the start line, recalling his enviable record at the GP Costa degli Etruschi, which opens the season in Italy. “But I’m not used to having my first race in mid-January in 40 degrees. The long list of top sprinters in contention makes the challenge pretty difficult but when it comes down to sprinting, I’m always up for it.”
Lampre-ISD’s team manager Roberto Damiani explained why Petacchi joined all of the other winners of the green jersey at the Tour de France of the past sixteen years and contested the Santos Tour Down Under – Laurent Jalabert, Erik Zabel, Robbie McEwen, Baden Cooke, Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen, Oscar Freire (who is in Adelaide for the first and last time this year) and Mark Cavendish have all ridden the Australian event. “For a 38-year-old rider, it’s easier to plan the season if we reduce the off-season,” Damiani said. “He has demonstrated that he’s already in a good shape.”