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92nd Giro d'Italia - The Sprinters Preview
 
By Staff
Date: 5/8/2009
92nd Giro d'Italia - The Sprinters Preview
 

92nd Giro d'Italia - The Sprinters
The Hunt for the Maglia Ciclamino - Cavendish vs Petacchi vs...

By Chris Graetz

When the 2009 Tour of Italy starts on Saturday May 9. The battle of the Maglia Ciclamino looks to be a two horse race. However, there are other sprinters in the field who could surprise and snatch their own glory while Ale-Jet and Cav are marking each other. Missing from the rosters are noted fast men: Daniele Bennati, Tom Boonen, Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd. But as the saying goes. “The show must go on.”

So here is a look at the sprinters who  will weigh in at the line for the honors to wear the purple jersey of Sprints Leader...

Mark Cavendish
Country: Great Britain
Team: Columbia-High Road
Age: 23
Season Wins: 8
Giro Wins: 2
Mark Cavendish deserves to be favourite to take the sprinters jersey on form alone. He started his professional career in 2006 and immediately made an impact later that year. He is fast; he is strong. He has a strong team. He has experience. Those are the factors which well help the young rider achieve many great things over his career, the fact that he came out of the gate so quickly only magnifies his talents. Cavendish’s 2009 season started off extremely well He dominated the tour of Qatar picking up two victories. Following that, in February he moved onto California where  he also picked up two victories and the sprinters jersey. So by middle February with still 6 months of cycling to go, he racked up four victories. A Phenomenal start for the season and victories which were against high class sprinters such as Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd.

Next up for the Manx man was the Tirreno-Adriatico. He was tapering and preparing his form for Milan San-Remo, an event he desperately wanted to win with the help of sprinting mentor Erik Zabel. Mark won stage 7 in Terrene and looked to be out of sorts.

However, Mark excelled in the spring classics. Come Milan San-Remo, Mark showed us what he is capable of. Heinrich Haussler jumped him 400 m from the finish and got a 10 meter lead on Cavendish. However, Mark is best over the last couple hundred metres and he powered home to win by a whisker. If the cycling world didn’t know by then they could rediscover him as the headlines poured in from around the world. In the 3 Days of De Panne Mark showed he was still in electrifying form taking the win in stage 2 and then a win in stage 3a.

Mark raced his first Grand Tour last year, the Giro d’Italia and won two stages and could have easily had three. In the Tour de France he won 5 stages and proved that he can perform on the big stage. Come the Giro in 2009, he has the experience ready to take the sprinters jersey and has proven he is the fastest man in the world. However, he has never completed a Grand Tour and there is still a question mark (pardon the pun) at his young age whether or not he can make it over three weeks without jeopardizing the Tour de France which is most importance to Mark.

Alessandro Petacchi
Country: Italy
Team: LPR Brakes
Age: 35
Season Wins: 7
Giro Wins: 24
Alessandro Petacchi, nicknamed, Ale-Jet, is a veteran of the sprint wars. 2009 is his 13th professional season which began in 1996, this year Alessandro has shown that he still has the explosive speed that put him at the top of the food chain among the top sprinters in the past and made him the heir apparent to Mario Cipollini. Petacchi holds the record of most stage wins in a Giro at 9 in 2004 where he claimed the Maglia Ciclamino. He also has the most accumulated stage wins of any of the active sprinters.

His season to date has been strong. His first win of the 2009 season came in the GP Costa degli Etruschi in early February. Late February he scored his second win in the Giro di Sardegna in stage 5. In March he scored another win, winning stage 2 in the Tirreno-Adriatico with a strong fight with fellow countryman Daniele Bennati. He showed his class in the Settimana Lombardia in stage 2 as well as stage 4 in early April; two weeks later he won Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen. His latest win came in the Giro di Toscana making it 4 wins in just over a month.

Ale-Jet has the experience necessary to win his second Maglia Ciclamino and is in excellent form. The only question mark is his age in respect with his younger rival who is 12 years younger. He is the most experienced sprinter in the field and should give another good fight.

Cavendish and Petacchi can’t win all the sprint stages, so here are the other sprinters a chance at winning some stages and maybe push towards the overall.

Allan Davis
Country: Australia
Team: Quick-Step
Age: 28
Season Wins: 4
Giro Wins: 0
Allan Davis is riding strong in his 8th year as a professional after making the move in 2001. Whilst he is not in the same caliber as Cavendish and Petacchi, on his given day he can be explosive and powerful. He has the team to deliver him to the line with a proud history. Whilst his four wins this year came back in January in the Tour Down Under, he did come 4th in Milan San-Remo and produced some other good performances in the classics.

He has had limited experience in Grand Tours but when he’s been in them, he has shown a level head. In the 2005 Tour de France he finished 5th in the sprinters competition. So he can perform on the big stage. However, it’s hard seeing him challenge Cavendish and Petacchi for the points classification; count on score a stage win with any luck and to put in consistent performances.

Filippo Pozzato
Country: Italy
Team: Katusha
Age: 27
Season Wins: 2
Giro Wins: 0
Filippo Pozzato is known more as an all-rounder than a pure sprinter. He has posted consistent results all season, his two wins this season came within a space of 4 days. The first was in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and the second was the first stage of the Three Days of De Panne. At the time 'Pippo' was peaking for the classics; a econd in the Trofeo Laigueglia and also Paris-Roubaix followed. In the Ronde van Vlaanderen he came 5th.

In regards to his Grand Tour experience he has won two stages in the Tour de France. In 2004 and 2007. Like all Italian’s he will be motivated to do well; look for Pozzato to challenge the sprint specialists for stage wins and win when  it is more than just a flat run to the line.

Robert Hunter
Country: South Africa
Team: Barloworld
Age: 32
Season Wins: 3
Giro Wins: 0
Robert Hunter hails from South Africa and turned professional in 1999. Hunter is off to a good start this season racking up three wins. His first came in Stage 4 of the Tour of Meditterraneen on the 13th of February. He won the Giro del Capo 1- Wellington on the 4th of March and just recently won stage 3 of the Giro del Trentino on the 24th of April.

Whilst he hasn’t scored any wins in the Giro in his long career, he has performed on the big stage before. He won his first Tour de France stage in 2007 and in doing so was the first South African to win a stage of the Tour. He has won two stages in the Vuelta a Espana early on in his career in 1999 and 2001.

Robert Hunter is a sprinter who can’t be easily dismissed; not only does he have the experience, but the team he rides for Barloworld got a wildcard entry into the Giro. The team will be looking to show their appreciation by taking a few stage wins. Look for Hunter to win at least one stage, especially in the form he is in. But don’t expect him to challenge for the Ciclamino jersey.

Robert Förster
Country: Germany
Team: Milram
Age: 31
Season Wins: 1
Giro Wins: 3
Robert Förster is a well accomplished sprinter from Germany starting his pro career in 2001. He has one win this season and that was in the Presidential Tour of Turkey where he won stage 7.

He is a grand tour veteran having won his first Giro stage in 2006 and followed up later in the year with his first Vuelta win. In 2007 he won two stages of the Giro. He has the experience necessary to challenge for the points classification but there is a question mark whether or not he can be consistent enough to pull it off.. Watch the big German who reportedly is ready to rip after missing the tour du Normandie due to a flu; and back on the form he exhibited in 2007.

Tyler Farrar
Country: USA
Team: Garmin
Age: 24
Season Wins: 1
Giro Wins: 0
This young American started his professional career in 2003. He signed with his first pro-tour team in 2006, Cofidis and since 2008 he has been riding for Jonathan Vaughter's Garmin-Slipstream team. Tyler has only picked up one win this year and that was upstaging Mark Cavendish in Stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico. The way he upstaged Cavendish was phenomenal, beating Cavendish at his own game powering home in the last couple hundred metres to take Cavendish by surprise.

Expect Tyler to be there in the mix to challenge both Cavendish and Petacchi. He's beaten Cavendish once and he knows and has the confidence to do it again; he has experienced sprinter and former leadout man for Thor, Julian Dean to help him along the way.

Juan Jose Haedo
Country: Argentina
Team: Saxo Bank
Age: 28
Season Wins: 2
Giro Wins 0
Juan Jose Haedo is a well known power sprinter from Argentina. Haedo turned professional in 2003 and made his name on the American pro circuit riding first for Colavita/Sutter Home and Toyota/United where he won against the best in the tour of California. J.J. has colleced two wins this year. The first coming on the 25th of January winning stage 7 of the Tour de San Luis. Haedo’s second win came on the 22nd of March winning the GP Cholet.

He has no wins to his name in Grand Tour, not yet, but Saxo Bank and Bjarne Riis are confident he can take at least one stage win in the Giro. His biggest win of his career came in 2007 in the Rund um Köln.

Oscar Gatto
Country: Italy
Team: ISD
Age: 24
Season Wins 1
Giro Wins 0
Oscar Gatto is another sprinter in this field. He turned professional in 2007 and only has won major win next to his name and that came this year in stage 3 of the Giro di Sardegna. Again, he is a local rider so look for him to want to try and win a stage in his home tour.

Other sprinters include
Australian’s Mark Renshaw (Team Columbia), Matt Goss (Saxo Bank), Kiwi Hayden Roulston (Cervelo), and Alberto Loddo (Serramanti PVC).

Mark Cavendish and Alessandro Petacchi look to be the two main riders to take the purple jersey, but as we see from the above list there is plenty of talent on tap that will want to register their first Giro win and get their name in the spotlight and challenge these two favored sprinters in the daily fast legs contests..  It’s set to be an awesome battle over the next three weeks for the Mablia Ciclamino.

Prediction
Mark Cavendish is the fastest man in the world, with a very strong team committed to delivering the rider for stage wins. He is going to be hard to beat especially when you consider that his sprinting coach is none other than Erik Zabel. If the young rider  can complete all 3 weeks he just might secure his first Maglia Ciclamino.

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