Petacchi's train comes home, Zabriskie times it perfectly

May 18, 2005

Ale Petacchi and his Fassa train finally put it all together on the run into Ravenna - and none too soon for this Fassa Bortolo team that's purpose built around sprint king Petacchi. The pressure to produce a result - and there's only one result that counts, must have been enormous for Petacchi and Fassa and growing day by day within Fassa World. I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere near the wrath of DS Giancarlo Ferretti after the white and blue boys embarrassingly overshot the turn during the finale of stage 6, completely doffing the leadout for Petacchi in Marina di Grosseto.

As has been the case during the past several years, and heading into this Giro, the Fassa train and its star Petacchi were practically unbeatable, but the Giro this year has been fickle indeed. Certainly the decision to leave any climbers or overall contenders off the team looked good on paper. But for a high profile programme like Fassa Bortolo, a team currently looking for a co-sponsor, anything but total sprint domination must be considered unacceptable. Thankfully for the team, they can now let their collective breath out.

Watching Petacchi finally flex his muscles after a clean final kilometre win was impressive. The man is just squeamish when surrounded, usually backing off in tight confines, but when given an unhassled run to the 200m to go sign, he is flawless. Ale's body position during his sprint is perfect; no wasted motion, bike upright, head and shoulders low, which all translates into powerful aerodynamic forward motion. Look for Fassa to ride herd on the front again during Stage 10, which will be the last we see of the sprinters for a while as the race gets ever more serious heading into the Dolomites.

American Dave Zabriskie's great TT effort puts the CSC rider into a select category. Only three other riders from the USA have won Giro stages in the history of the race. Andy Hampsten won three (plus of course the overall title in '88), while Tyler Hamilton won a TT as well. The Americans do especially well in Giro time trials; Andy and Tyler both won TT stages and Greg Lemond finished second in the final TT stage of the '89 Giro, a result that showed he was finally on the comeback after his hunting accident.

When Andy won the TT during the '88 Giro, infamous for the snowstorm on the Gavia pass, he did so wearing the maglia rosa. Starting last has its advantages, more so because that was the era before TV in the car and radios for the riders. In 1988, Team 7-Eleven placed several people on the climb out of Levico Terme to give Andy splits along the way. At the time, Andy was the best climber in the world and the uphill TT suited him perfectly. The rest of us, having finished hours before, watched Andy's ride from the hotel and he didn't disappoint, gaining time with every switchback on the way up the mountain.

Last September, I watched roadside in Bardolino as Zabriskie put in a good ride during the Worlds outside Verona to take fifth; I wasn't totally surprised by his stellar performance on Stage 8 during Sunday's race against the clock. And to average in excess of 46km/h on a course with an 8km climb is fantastic, certainly showing that Dave Zabriskie is on course to a potential World TT title in the future.

Well the Giro d'Italia comes to my neck of the woods now with a stage start in our village of Marostica on Thursday. We'll have to wait and see but that also might be the end of the line for some of the best sprinters; guys like Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady, who if the past is any indication, will pack it in and go home to prepare for the Tour de France.


Check out photos of Davis in our 'Phinney Photo Files'

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