By Tim Maloney, European Editor
After plenty of criticism over his performance in last Sunday's world road championship, Alessandro Petacchi issued a press communique on Tuesday where the Italian super-sprinter gave his side of the story for his disappointing World's performance. Petacchi explained that "I've listened to the analyses of the world championship in silence, filing away plenty of hard criticism on my value as an athlete, ethical lessons about my sporting loyalty, ferocious insinuations about my maturity and harsh comments about my supposed disaffection with the Italian team."
"A lot of people have been talking and have unloaded a lot on me for a world championship that didn't turn out well for Italy. Up until now, I didn't want to say anything. but preferred to take a few days to reflect on what went wrong and make a rational analysis of the situation. I'm not talking to respond to any specific comments, but rather to give my side of the story."
"What happened is pretty simple: I am a man, not a machine. I have enough experience to be able to understand what my condition is during a race, but I don't have a red light on my handlebars that flashes when during the race, I'm about to run out of gas, nor a crystal ball that can tell me if I'll have enough strength to do my best in the final sprint."
"With 10km to go in the world championships, I thought I was feeling 'normal'. I didn't have the same condition as [Milano] Sanremo this year, but with the same feelings, I've won plenty of races this year. Often I've said [to my team-mates] that I'm not at my maximum because I don't feel great, and my team-mates who lead me out know it well. Sunday, I only realised that I wasn't good on the final lap when the climb began. I had less energy and I realised that in the biggest race of the year, I just didn't have the strength to stay with the first riders."
"Anyone who is a cyclist, or for years has written about cycling, knows that this can happen."
"Two years ago at Milano-Sanremo, after the Poggio, I was convinced that I could win. However, when the pace increased, I realised that I would not be up there in the sprint. This year, when the pace went up before the sprint, I wouldn't have bet on myself; however, remember how that Sanremo finished."
"The world championship of Madrid was one of my major objectives of the season, and as always, I prepared for it with the maximum commitment. But I knew that while wearing the Italian national jersey, I would have been really happy if an Italian would have won, above all Bettini."
"To be a leader of our Italian national team is a very satisfying honour, approached with maturity and intelligence, so I can say that I would not have hesitated to help another Italian win. If I had felt at 50km to go that I was 'out of gas', I would have clearly told the team. Unfortunately, it happened with 10km to go, when the final tactics of the race were already established, but I was hoping for a miracle."
"So for that reason, I can accept, as a racer, if they are saying that Petacchi didn't have the strength or class to win the world championship, you can decide for yourself. But as a man, I can't tolerate that someone is implying that I was disloyal to the Italian national team."
"I'm sorry that somebody made me out to be a capricious prima donna, who puts his own interests ahead of those of the Italian national team. I'm just a rider who did his best to win the world championships and unfortunately, I didn't win. It's a bitter ending, but as an athlete, I can accept it."