... affect negatively AleJet's performances on his home roads. Well, perhaps, 'cause in the end it's the road that has the last say. In any case, here is our short preview of the "Milkman Army" soldiers, ready to start their Corsa Rosa battle.
Despite their many injuries, Team MILRAM will start optimistically in Caprera on Saturday. On top of the team's selection of nine riders is Alessandro Petacchi. The Italian, who will be going for more stage wins (his current record in Tour of Italy stages is a good 19 victories), wants to compensate last year, when he crashed in the third stage and had to give up the race with a broke knee cap. "I want to win at the Giro to start a new phase in my career" the MILRAM-sprinter said in an interview he gave to Gazzetta dello Sport.
After he suffered some setbacks, Petacchi is now on the way back to his former top form, and his show at the recent Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt, where he won three stages and the overall, silenced naysayers (if any). "My goal is to win the first stage and take the pink jersey. I had many doubts, but I didn't give up. It's a great feeling now" the 33 year-old, who feels that he is on the right track, continued in the Italian sports newspaper. At this year's Giro d'Italia he'll get enough opportunities to prove that. Although this year's Tour of Italy privileges the climbers with five mountain finishes, there will be enough chances for the sprinters left. On at least six stages a sprint finish is to be expected. Accordingly, Team MILRAM chose a selection with the ability to bring Petacchi into the right position.
"Our team for the Giro is very motivated" sport director Gianluigi Stanga, who hopes to be successful, says. "We didn't forget last year's unfortunate Giro when Petacchi crashed. This year we want to achieve great results. We lined up our selection for the sprints, so we won't go for the overall classification" Stanga continues. Fastmen like Alberto Ongarato and Mirko Lorenzetto, as well as the Aussie Brett Lancaster (first "Maglia Rosa" wearer two years ago as he won the prologue on the Reggio Calabria seafront) and the tetutonic bike-knight Christian Knees, will be there to give AleJet all the help he needs to take his Tour of Italy record up to new heights. And - at least in Ongarato's and Lorenzetto's case - take over the role of appointed sprinter if Petacchi should falter.
Unfortunately the Sprinter Gentleman will not have two of his most loyal lieutenants and leadoutmen by his side on Tour of Italy roads: Marco Velo has been forced to take a longer break, perhaps muchlonger than expected, after his crash at Ghent-Wevelgem. The Italian fell while coming down the Kemmelberg and broke his collarbone and knee. At the moment he's staying at home. He is not allowed to bend his knee for at least six weeks. Depending on the healing process he can start the rehab then. Yet Velo probably won't be able to start again this season. And Erik Zabel will not be at the Giro to help either.
The rest of the "milkmen army" for the first Grand Tour of the season consists of young guns Sergio Ghisalberti and Fabio Sabatini, that will be aiming for a good overall result anyway, as well as Alessandro Cortinovis, yet another girino from the Bergamo area of Lombardy, whose top performance in the last couple years has been a podium finish at the 2006 Ster Elektrotour, and the German veteran Martin Müller. Needless to say, both the man from Deutschland and the bergamasco will be doing their best to play the "perfect domestique" part.
The Giro starts on Saturday with a team time trial over 24 kilometers on the Caprera island soil. The first day of rest is scheduled after the third stage already, when the whole peloton is transferred from Sardinia to the Italian mainland again by ferry. Here, the tour continues towards the North of Italy. After detours to France (Briancon, 12th stage) and Austria (Linz, 16th stage) the course proceeds towards the finish in Milan.
The Team Milram Giro d'Italia 2007 Roster is as followw:
Alessandro Petacchi (Ita)
Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita)
Sergio Ghisalberti (Ita)
Christian Knees (Ger)
Brett Lancaster (Aus)
Martin Müller (Ger)
Alberto Ongarato (Ita)
Fabio Sabatini (Ita)