Old-time Italian hope for stage wins has rested on Alessandro Petacchi, but time is running out.
Photo: Yuzuru Sunada
Alessandro Petacchi has come up short so far in this Tour de France. One year ago, he'd already won two stages and firmly put himself at the top of the green jersey competition. This year, he can only boast a second place finish behind Mark Cavendish.
"It's impossible to say that this is the same Petacchi as last year, or two years ago, or even next year," Lampre-ISD's sports director, Roberto Damiani said. "This is Petacchi. It's how he is and we are working with him how he is."
The Italian sprinter won the green jersey last year by 11 points over Brit Mark Cavendish. He wrote a piece of history, too. He was the first Italian cyclist to win the classification since Franco Bitossi in 1968 – 42 years.
His season went well ahead of the Tour de France, three wins: one stage each at the Volta a Catalunya, the Tour of Turkey and the Giro d'Italia. His stage win at the Giro d'Italia brought his career tally there up to 22.
Petacchi told us he was sick ahead of the Tour and started the race below par. Even if there opportunities ahead, he believes it'll be hard beat Cavendish (HTC-Highroad).
"There's three sprint stages left," said Petacchi. "It'll be hard."
The 37-year-old may have seen his best days at the Tour de France, where he's raised his arms in victory six times since turning professional in 1996
"The euphoria and craziness passes with age, it's normal," added Damiani. "When you're 18 years old and have no one at home to feed, it's different than when you're 35 and have a wife and children waiting."
Since 1996, Petacchi also claimed 20 stage wins at the Vuelta a España and the one-day classics, Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Tours. In other words, the most a sprinter can ask for combined with the Tour's green jersey last year.
A case of influenza, and maybe the stress of an ever-present doping investigating, delayed his Tour preparations.
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) investigated Petacchi last year. He is accused of using synthetic blood Perfluorocarbon (PFC) and human serum albumin in 2009. CONI issued his former team-mate Lorenzo Bernucci a lifetime ban in December. Petacchi was a long time team-mate of Bernucci's and linked to his case.
He was banned previously for nine months for excessive use of the asthma inhaler Salbutamol during the 2007 Giro d'Italia.