He's targeting a return to the Tour de France after a five-year hiatus, but Alessandro Petacchi's participation still hinges on a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision over his non-negative doping control from last year's Giro d'Italia. The Italian sprinting star didn't hide his doubts when Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet caught up with him at the Presidential Tour of Turkey last week.
During a week in Turkey, Alessandro Petacchi has seen some beautiful landscapes and listened to the early morning calls of the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer. Not entirely dissimilar surroundings to those of his first professional victory, which came 10 years ago in Mersing, Malaysia at Le Tour de Langkawi. At the time, he wasn't yet a top sprinter, merely the fastest of a four-man breakaway group, and also won the race's King of the Mountains jersey - even after tackling the gruelling climb to Genting Highlands.
Now a confirmed member of cycling's sprinting elite, Petacchi was in Turkey to hone his form for the Giro d'Italia. But it wasn't an easy week for the Italian, who felt sick as a dog on several occasions during the race. On the morning of the final stage, Petacchi found himself awake at 5.00am. He was already coughing badly after winning Stage 6 the day before. "During the night, it got worse," explained the Tuscan prior to the final stage of the newly promoted 2.1 Turkish event. "Before the start of the stage, I decided that I wouldn't sprint today. I've been close to pulling out of the race a few times because I couldn't breathe and I was coughing on my bike", he said afterwards.
"This is the first time in my career that I've got sick twice in a row," he added. "Maybe I didn't take care of myself properly after Milan-San Remo. I don't know. I took antibiotics for one week. I thought I'd be fine after that. But sometimes there are still some germs of sickness remaining in the body. When I came to Turkey, I thought it was over but it wasn't. In fact, the heat has made me worse, I guess. Now my breathing is really short."
Petacchi started taking antibiotics again on Sunday morning, and hopes to be fit again for his last race before the Giro - the Henninger Turm in Frankfurt on May 1. "I tried to understand and I spoke with some friends who have had this kind of flu three times in a row," he said. "It might be a virus. It's stronger than before. It sucks. I hope the weather will be fine at home and I'll be able to recover."
To read the full interview with Alessandro Petacchi, click here.