"I have to return to win at the Giro. And I have to win the first sprint to take the Maglia Rosa," said Alessandro Petacchi in a recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 33 year-old Tuscan sprinter had just come out of a successful Niedersachsen Rundfahrt, where he won three stages, to close a hard year.
"This would be a great emotion and a way to close with the past," he continued, referring to the past year that first involved a left knee injury in the 2006 Giro d'Italia and then a wrist injury in the Vuelta a España. If he were to don the pink jersey it would mark four years sine his first time, when he won against Mario Cipollini in Lecce to take the leader's classification.
"I did specific work in the winter. I am now able to put a load on my left leg, with the same weight that I was able to use when I was healthy. That was as important as a win to me."
Petacchi knows it won't be easy to win in the Giro. His first chance will come after the stage 1 team time trial, on stage 2 to Bosa. "I have always considered him [McEwen] the most difficult sprinter to confront, even when there was Cipollini," Petacchi said of his rival, Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto). "He knows how to surprise me every time."
He is also concerned of his other sprint rivals. "This year there will also be [Thor] Hushovd, who won a stage at the Tour and the Vuelta. While the most gifted Italian is [Danilo] Napolitano. The important thing is that I battle everyone."
For the sprint fights he will have to due without Marco Velo and Volodymyr Dyudya, both of whom are injured. "Missing Velo for a second year will be felt. But [Alberto] Ongarato will be at his best, like [Fabio] Sacchi and [Brett] Lancaster. In the train there will also be [Mirco] Lorenzetto, who is learning the trade.
"We will aim to do well in the opening team time trial in order to take the Maglia Rosa."