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Ale-Jet honours SuperMario

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo)

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) (Image credit: AFP)

"Cycling is losing a great champion, and I'm losing my most dangerous rival," commented Italy's sprint star Alessandro Petacchi to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday, after the announcement of Mario Cipollini's retirement. Petacchi, who has just been victorious for the 15th time this season at the Tour de Romandie, paid his respects to 'SuperMario' Cipollini, saying that "in a certain way, Cipollini made me." The Fassa Bortolo rider, nicknamed 'Ale-Jet' said that his biggest victory against the 'Lion King' was at the Giro d'Italia 2003, where Petacchi took stage one. "That gave me a new dimension."

Petacchi, who continued by assuring that there were never any personal disputes between the two sprinters, honoured his elder counterpart further: "We can only admire him. He proved that it is possible to be competitive even at this age, as he scored some victories this season too. We were always big rivals, but I respected him. Mario's company was always fun, and very pleasant."