By Jean-François Quénet
Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) may have only one race left on his calendar before the Giro d'Italia starts in Palermo, Sicily, on May 10. The Italian has been in bed instead of racing, sick with the flu.
"I still don't know if I'll be able to take part in Gent-Wevelgem on April 9 but for sure I'll be present at the Tour of Turkey," said Petacchi. "This will be my last race prior to the Tour of Italy and I need to race as much [I can] as I need to win."
Petacchi couldn't contest the E3 Prijs and the Brabantse Pijl, the races he had chosen to prepare for Gent-Wevelgem, which is the only classic he had planned to target after Milano-Sanremo. While Gent-Wevelgem is in doubt for the sprinter, he is certain to start the Presidential Tour of Turkey from April 13 to 20.
"I'm sick with a flu at the moment," the Tuscan sprinter explained. "I'm taking antibiotics."
Petacchi, who with six wins has claimed more wins than any other professional this season, usually rides the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt at the end of April to prepare for the Giro, but the German race will not be run this year. Instead the Tour of Turkey will give him the opportunity to accumulate a solid number of days of racing in ideal conditions.
"I've been told that the landscapes in Turkey are fabulous," Petacchi said. "It should be sunny as well. I'll benefit from all of that but above everything I intend to work on my sprinting with my team-mates. It'll be very useful for getting used to do the job together."
At the inaugural criterium in the streets of Istanbul on the same day as Paris-Roubaix, he'll be surrounded by his faithful domestiques Alberto Ongarato, Marco Velo, Brett Lancaster and Fabio Sabatini who form the famous successful blue train of the team Milram.
Clearly, the Italian has already set his mind onto the Giro, where he is a 25-time stage winner. After warming up in Turkey, Petacchi will take part in his favourite race not only to add to his impressive win tally, but also as a warm up for the Tour de France, where he will race for the first time in four years. Petacchi last appeared at the Tour in 2004, where he claimed four stage wins before pulling out on Stage 6.