By Susan Westemeyer
At the end of another strong season, Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi has his sights set on the classics in 2006. "I want a new challenge, he told Gazzetta dello Sport. "My future lies in the classics." 31-year-old Petacchi wants to take on newly-crowned world champion Tom Boonen on the young Belgian's home turf. "I've got nothing to lose. Flanders is a race that for me is on equal terms with Milan-San Remo," he said.
Petacchi says he doesn't anticipate any conflicts with new team-mate Erik Zabel when, for example, the two face Milan San Remo for the first time at Team Milram. "It is a great honour to have Erik Zabel as a pacemaker in San Remo - that gives me a feeling of security," said Petacchi. "When he gives me tips, then I will have a lot to learn from him. Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, HEW Cyclassics in Hamburg, and Paris-Tours will be the focus of my attention next year."
Zabel, who has won Milan-San Remo four times, has said that it's his favourite race also. Petacchi won there in 2005, and says there is no enmity between him and Zabel regarding the race. Milram team manager Gianluigi Stanga said in September, "Both are professional enough. In San Remo, and anywhere else that they ride together, there will be no problems."