Veteran Alessandro Petacchi won the second bunch sprint of the 2010 Tour de France and responded to critics suggesting that he only won in Brussels because Mark Cavendish and some other sprinters crashed. It's a bit of a paradox that Lampre already claimed two out of four stages and there might be more to come.
"In Brussels, some of you guys almost said that I won because everybody else crashed," Petacchi told reporters. "Today there was no crash and yet, I won. But I'm not here for polemics. I've also heard in Brussels that I didn't do too badly for an oldie! I'm 36 and I don't need to win a Tour de France stage to know that I'm still able to do well."
Petacchi was smart to follow the moves of Cavendish who remained the race favourite despite struggling in the first stages of the Tour. Unlike the Italian's impressive run in 2003 when he won four stages in the Tour's first week, Petacchi didn't have the likes of his former Fassa Bortolo train, but instead relied on his vast experience to guide him to the win.
"In the past few years, I've made my own arrangements in most of the sprints," the Italian said. "I've done more than 200 sprints in my career and I can understand in a wink of an eye what's going on. That's how I chose Cavendish's wheel at the beginning. What my teammates have managed to do, they did at 100 percent. [Mirco] Lorenzetto and [Danilo] Hondo tried to anticipate. They have great experience. But yes, we need more people to lead me out. [Team manager Giuseppe] Saronni and the [team owners] Galbusera are working on it."
Lampre is moving on the market to offer Petacchi more lead-out men. It's kind of a miracle that the Italian team is currently the most successful after five stages. In January, they almost got suspended by the UCI supposedly for administrative reasons. The financial troubles were resolved when co-sponsor Diadora was taken over by Geox, a shoe maker that is considering setting up a new team, probably for the 2012 season.
Saronni also registered the company running the Lampre team in Switzerland. At the end of March, they got the green light from the UCI. A couple of days later, most of their members got involved in an inquiry about drugs conducted in Mantova. Italian team ISD-Neri was ready to take their spot at the Giro d'Italia and French team Saur-Sojasun was hopeful that Lampre would be kicked out of the Tour de France.
Lampre is well alive at the end of the day. "I'm very happy with Petacchi's second win today," Damiano Cunego told Cyclingnews on the finishing line of stage 4 in Reims. "This takes the morale of the team very high and there will be other occasions for us to win stages. There are more to come for Petacchi. As for myself, I haven't raced between the Giro and the Tour but my condition is improving. I'll begin riding offensively in the Alps."
It wouldn't be a surprise if Petacchi takes his exit, just as in 2003, when the race hits the Alps. The Italian remained extremely vague when asked if the green jersey was a target for him. He's second on points classification with a ten-point deficit to Thor Hushovd. "My Tour de France is done, I could go home tomorrow," Petacchi said. "After my win on Sunday, Oscar Freire told me that my job was done already. He's right, but I'm a professional and I'll try to win more as long as I can."