In the lead up to Milano-Sanremo, Alessandro Petacchi is paying close attention to sprint rival Mark Cavendish, as the two race in Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico stage race this week - eight days before the Italian tries to repeat his 2005 Milano-Sanremo title.
"He is very strong, but also very young," the Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport after he won stage two in Marina di Carrara. "I don't know if he will improve enough on the climbs in time for Sanremo but he is a pure sprinter and on the climbs he tires easier than the others."
Petacchi won the duel of the Italian sprinters with Daniele Bennati finishing second on stage two. Cavendish, on the other hand, was unable to contest the sprint after being dropped 20 kilometres from the finish.
Milano-Sanremo is 298 kilometres long and marked with the climbs of Le Mànie (94 kilometres to go), Cipressa (22.1km) and Poggio (6.2). Often strong sprinters win the Monument, like Petacchi in 2005 and Filippo Pozzato in 2006, but some times attackers have their way, like Fabian Cancellara last year.
But Petacchi may have to worry about more than just Cavendish, after Bennati's second-place finish. "Bennati is going well and getting better year after year. When the road tilts upwards he handles it a lot better and is still fast in the finale. However, the Sanremo sprint is after 300 kilometres, and it is a completely different to a stage here. The one who wins is fresher, not the fastest."
Petacchi also noted Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Pozzato (Katusha) as candidates for this year's Milano-Sanremo.