Sprinters will pull out before end

With this year's Giro d'Italia offering only a few stages for possible bunch sprint arrivals, some...

With this year's Giro d'Italia offering only a few stages for possible bunch sprint arrivals, some of the top fast men have already made up their mind on when they will be retiring from the race - before it's actually begun. Another reason for early withdrawal will be the next-up Grand Tour in France in July. Davitamon-Lotto's Robbie McEwen told Het Laatste Nieuws that he will not end the Giro in Milano.

"I'm not going to be there for stage 15 and the last criterium in Milan," the Australian said. "Somewhere in the middle of the Giro I'll return home. It makes no sense to give it all to get over the mountains and then not score anything at the Tour. This Giro is unbalanced - the sprinters' share is meagre." Asked if he will try to go for victory again in Namur, where he won a Tour de France stage in 2004, McEwen said, "I've scrapped the Giro stage that arrives in Namur - too difficult."

The main rival of McEwen will of course be Italian supersprinter Alessandro Petacchi. "Petacchi is strong, and so is his train," McEwen added. But Petacchi also has plans to abandon the Giro before its finish. "I won't be winning nine stages this year," Ale-Jet said, thinking back on his record-breaking success in 2004. But he is confident in his abilities. "With that few chances [of winning], you have to be in top condition at the start. I've proved that in Niedersachsen."

Just like his Australian rival, Petacchi also has his mind set on the rest of the season. "The last ten days are not tailored to a rider like me," he said. "I also want win stages at the Tour; and who knows? Maybe even at the Vuelta."

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