Alessandro Petacchi will continue as a professional rider in 2015 after signing a contract with the former Neri Sottoli-Yellowfluo team, which will be sponsored by Chinese steel concern Southeast this season.
Petacchi had been linked with a move to the team throughout the winter after Omega Pharma-QuickStep declined to renew his contract at the end of last season. The 41-year-old eventually put pen to paper on Monday, signing on for a twentieth season in the professional ranks.
“I still want to race and I’m happy with this signing,” Petacchi told Gazzetta dello Sport. “The team’s project convinces me, the team is competitive and I think that I can lend a good hand, maybe especially to a youngster like Jakub Mareczko, who I don’t know but they tell me is very fast…”
Signed by Omega Pharma-QuickStep in August 2013 after a brief mid-season retirement, Petacchi served as part of Mark Cavendish’s lead-out train and also landed victory at the GP Pino Cerami last April, but he found himself surplus to requirements at the team as 2014 drew on.
“Up until the last Giro d’Italia I thought I’d renew with Omega but then things changed,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to do, even if I kept training. Now I’m very motivated for this new adventure, but I’m living by the day.”
Petacchi was enthusiastic about the prospect of riding Milan-San Remo, which will again finish on Via Roma, as it did when he won La Classicissima ten years ago, and he will be hopeful, too, that his team can secure a wildcard for the Giro, where he has won 22 stages in his career.
“I hope to be at the start of the Giro d’Italia, which is the race that made my name and it could be a nice way to end my career,” Petacchi said. “But that’s not a limit I want to impose on myself right now, even if I will certainly start to attend the training course for directeurs sportifs.”
Petacchi is Southeast's highest-profile signing of an off-season that also saw them land Francesco Gavazzi, Elia Favilli and Luca Wackermann.
Following Matteo Rabottini’s positive test, Luca Scinto’s decision to take a sabbatical from his role as directeur sportif and Neri Sottoli’s downscaling of its support, the signing of Petacchi and the arrival of Southeast as sponsor are important boosts for Angelo Citracca’s team ahead of the allocation of Giro wildcards in mid-January. Race director Mauro Vegni told Cyclingnews last month that four of the five available wildcards are likely to go to Italian teams.