Petacchi, Boonen & Bettini get race faces ready for Sanremo

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Milano

The last man to win back-to-back editions of Milano-Sanremo was 2001, when Erik Zabel of Team Telekom notched his fourth victory on the Via Roma, having also taken back-to-back victories in 1997-98. Five years later, Team Milram's Alessandro Petacchi is looking to do the same, and the speedster from La Spezia is using the same techniques as last year to prepare for La Primavera classic.

After a relaxing ride yesterday of two hours on his local roads in Versilia, Petacchi packed his Colnago Extreme C in his Porsche Carrera and cruised up the Autostrada towards Sanremo, where he had a solid four hour ride to prepare for his big challenge Saturday. On the menu for Ale-Jet were the Capi coastal climbs, la Cipressa and il Poggio, with a number of repeats on this crucial final ascent before the wicked plunge into Sanremo. And like last season, Petacchi was all alone today on his training ride, allowing the Milram man to focus 100 percent of the challenge of getting up the Poggio far enough ahead to set himself up for a winning sprint in Milano-Sanremo.

As for Quick.Step's world champion Tom Boonen, before he flew to Italy yesterday to receive his Oscar Gazzetta-Bici d'Oro Fausto Coppi '05 [see story above], Wednesday saw big Tom Boonen doing a hard four hours on the roads around his hometown of Balen, ending up with another 90 minute session behind a derny! As for Boonen's teammate Paolo Bettini, he had a bad crash last Friday at Tirreno-Adriatico, having to abandon while in the leader's jersey and the hard fall may have cost the '04 Olympic champ some of his superb form.

But on Wednesday, Bettini was training on the roads around Salsomaggiore Terme with his trusted teammate Davide Bramati to test his form. The results? Bettini still has back pain from his crash, but the inflammation and swelling in his knee have almost disappeared. Even if Bettini has lost the edge he had last week, look for the powerful little Tuscan to go on the attack on La Cipressa to put more pressure on Petacchi's Milram squad and help his teammate Boonen.

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