Petacchi confirms Tour absence

Alessandro Petacchi has confirmed that he will not ride this year's Tour de France. Petacchi said yesterday that he still plans to take a break in July to prepare for the world championships in Madrid in September, despite winning four stages of the Giro d'Italia over the last three weeks.

"In winter I did very intense work to prepare for Milan-San Remo," said Petacchi. "After that I rested, then rode the Vuelta a Aragon and Tour de Romandie before the Giro, so this year has been very hard with long phases [of racing]. I have tired legs."

Petacchi concedes that you can't just turn up at the Tour and expect to ride well. The Tour is "a race that you must prepare for thoroughly and I do not want to go home after a week."

Italian national team manager Franco Ballerini is planning an assault on the world championships along the same lines as Italy's successful campaign at Zolder in 2002, said Petacchi. Back then, a united Italian team worked to deliver Mario Cipollini a rainbow jersey victory.

Petacchi's absence from the Tour will create possibilities for other sprint specialist who are hoping for stage wins in July, including Spanish three-time world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Belgium's Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), Australians Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), Baden Cooke (Francaise des Jeux) and Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), and Germany's Erik Zabel (T-Mobile).

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