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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre - Farnese Vini) after abandoning the Giro d'Italia during stage 8.
Veteran sprinter eyes first Tour de France since 2003
Alessandro Petacchi pulled out of the Giro d’Italia 40.5 kilometres into stage eight without having experienced pleasure of a stage win in the 2010 edition of the race.
"My form was good," the Italian explained. "But my health is not good. I've been suffering with bronchitis since day one in this race. Last night I almost didn’t sleep. I didn’t manage to recover from yesterday’s stage. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish the stage today."
After he pulled out, his Lampre-Farnese Vini team was the most active at the front of the bunch as it worked to bring the breakaway back and set-up a potential uphill stage win for Damiano Cunego.
"It’s a pity that I can’t continue," said Petacchi. "Tomorrow there was an opportunity for me to win and there are more stages to come for sprinters. This year, I’ve been affected by crashes but my condition was getting good for the Giro. I’ve tried to cure this bronchitis but it didn’t work out."
Petacchi’s return to competition isn’t scheduled yet and will depend on his health in the coming weeks, but he’s determined to have a go at the 2010 Tour de France. He hasn't competed at the Tour since he won four stages in 2003 prior to retiring at the start of the Pyrénées.
In 2008, he was supposed to ride the event with Milram but he missed out after being suspended for exceeding the World Anti-doping Agency's legal limit for asthma medication Salbutamol. In 2009, he rode for LPR, a team that wasn't selected for the Tour de France.
"I’ve chosen Lampre for the race programme, because I wanted to do the Giro and Tour this year," Petacchi said. Despite his early retirement from the Giro, it had been rumoured that he had planned to abandon the race after two weeks in order to prepare for the Grande Boucle. The mountainous final week of the Giro only offers sprinters one opportunity for a stage win - stage 18 to Brescia.