Alessandro Petacchi. The Giro resumed the way it had stopped two days before: with the Fassa Bortolo sprinter dominating the field one more time in a sensational bunch sprint. At the end of Wednesday’s short stage, the Italian equalled the record of stage wins in a single Giro edition set by Cipollini last year. The overall record, set by Alfredo Binda (who else ?) in 1927 when he won 12 stages out of 15, still is a distant mirage, but nevertheless this remains a big accomplishment for the 29-year-old from La Spezia. And it’s getting harder for journalists to find different questions to ask him each time he is the first across the line .
“I must thank my teammates one more time. It wasn’t easy today, also because of the hot climate. But I had a good sprint. Svorada almost came around me in the end, but my lunge was better. It was a long sprint, I started early, with 300 m. to go ... and they are six now!!!”. Were the first words from Petacchi after the he crossed the line.
He added that ”after Sunday’s crash, I’m more afraid when sprinting though. I am afraid that anyone may hit me, and my left side is still acheing. But now I just want to enjoy my sixth stage victory. I was lucky I didn’t ride yesterday, I would have had a bad time, as I was suffering the consequences of the crash even more than the day before”. And Petacchi’s more than justified worries were evident also before the start in Salice Terme, when he asked fans wishing to pose for a picture with him to be careful not to touch his left shoulder.
And later on, when interviewed by a RAI TV journalist, Petacchi said that “I don’t want to sound like a whiner. I complain about my pain, and then win stage after stage. People could not take me seriously. But the truth is that I’m actually suffering. You can see it when I put the Cyclamen jersey on. It’s not an easy task, because of the pain in my shoulder and the bruises on my left elbow.
”I know other teams are doing their best to beat me, but I’ve got a strong team. They have done a huge job today as well. This time I sprinted the “Cipollini way”: I had my own train doing the leadout work, with all main rivals sitting on my wheels, just like I was used to when Cipo still was in the race. I knew that Marco Velo is going fast in this period, so I stayed on his wheels. But when he slowed down a bit with less than 300m to go, I was afraid someone could anticipate me. So I made my move. It was a bit too early perhaps, but I succeeded”.
”I’m happy I could equal Cipollini’s score of 6 stage wins in a single Giro edition. And that I was able to get it at my fourth attempt, whereas he needed 14-15 Giros. That’s a good sign for the future, making me think I can get some more satisfactions. As for Giuseepe Saronni’s record of 7 stage wins, I’d be glad to beat it, but also know that I’ll never be like him. Saronni was a true champion, even able to win Grand Tours. Something I’ll never do. I’m satisfied with my performances anyway. I proved I have got “grinta”, also thanks to the help from my teammates, and the tifosi who supported me”
The last question posed to Petacchi concerned what many really want to know: ”Me at the TdF ? Well, there’s one thing to say first. I’m still here struggling and suffering, while Zabel and Cipollini are at home preparing for the race. And McEwen just went home to start his build-up for the Tour. So I have to finish the Giro first, and see how my state of form is, before making a decision on the Tour”.
Giuseppe Saronni: If Petacchi bettered my record, it would be ok to me. I think Petacchi is a great rider, more complete than Cipollini as he can climb better, so he can go far IMO”.
Gilberto Simoni: The current Maglia Rosa wearer sounded calm and confident, ready for the one-on-one challenge with Garzelli on the Fauniera (the two guys will be rivals - off the bike - even earlier, with both FC Juventus fan Simoni and AC Milan supporter Stefano Garzelli hoping for his favourite football team to win the UEFA Champions League Final match tonight in Manchester), but also wishing to keep his plans for the upcoming mountain stages secret “I was feeling good today. But I am already thinking about tomorrow. Three fundamental stages, all of them able to say plenty of things, are about to come, and I don’t know which one could be more decisive. My tactics for tomorrow’s stage ? Well, there are many things I could do, but I won’t tell you …“.
Jan Svorada : “I was in an excellent condition in the last days, but this wasn’t the case today. Indeed today I was feeling bad, maybe due to the cold I got, and almost got dropped on an easy ascent. But I held on, and was eventually lucky to sit on the wheels of an FDJeux rider that took me up front. Then I sat on Petacchi’s wheels and made a try, but my legs simply weren’t good enough”.
Giovanni Lombardi : We’ll make our last attempt in the penultimate stage, probably in a breakaway. Petacchi is currently invincible in a bunch sprint”.