|Photo by Anita van Crey|
On Monday afternoon he made history by becoming the third rider ever (after Miguel Poblet and Pierino Baffi) to win a stage in all three Grand Tours during the same year. A few hours later Alessandro Petacchi, who took over Mario Cipollini’s role as best sprinter in the World, had a brief chat with Italy’s #1 sport newspaper “Gazzetta dello Sport”. The Fassa Bortolo rider from La Spezia talked of his stage victory, the “secrets” of his success, and his passion for the Vuelta and Spain, a country where he has taken a significative part of his victories, even outside the nation’s Grand Tour.
Q: Alessandro, can you tell us anything about today’s sprint ?
A: “Well, there was a bit of confusion during the sprint. And I was a bit afraid as, because of the rain and the slippery roads, the final part could be dangerous, such that a few riders crashed. But in the end everything went fine for me”.
Q: Is it true that there was a kind of agreement inside the peloton aimed at avoiding a sprint finish, and preventing you from equaling Poblet’s and Baffi’s record ?
A: “I don’t know whether it’s true. Somebody told me about that, and I’m sorry that someone in the peloton may be against me. Notably if such things come from Italian teams. I have never annoyed anyone, so such things make me even more sorry”.
Q: If we take into consideration also Criteriums, we can realize that you have snatched 26 wins so far in 2003. Whereas in all previous years as professional rider (Petacchi made his debut in 1996 – btw) you had a cumulative score of 27 victories. Which factors played a fundamental part in your improvement this year ?
A: "The most important one definitely was my stage victory in Lecce (in the opening leg of the 2003 Giro d’Italia – btw). I had won many races before, but after that success I became much more confident about my chances. And besides that, I have also realized that I can make good sprints thanks to a great team, that knows how to make an excellent (lead-out) work for me”.
Q: You said you like the Tour of Spain, a race that saw you win stages in past editions too. Which are the reasons of such passion ?
A: “Many a reason. It has always been a pleasure to ride the Vuelta. The climate is not that hot, stages are not too long. I like the Spanish people, I like the route. I won two stages of this race in the year 2000, and one in the past season. And now I’ve got a victory in this edition too, and hope I may keep doing well”.
Q: So do you want to make it to Madrid ? Is finishing the race your target ?
A: “Definitely. I came to the Vuelta to do my best, and I hope I won’t have any problems and will be able to make it to the end. I want to finish the race”.
Petacchi’s final statement seems to contradict Locutus’ skepticism on the man’s chances to cross the finish line in Madrid. Sure it would be great for the 29-year-old to take the Points Jersey home, and for Italian cycling to get something more than simple stage wins in foreign Grand Tours (the white jersey Ivan Basso earned at last year’s Tour de France being a bit too little). And the fact the man hasn’t finished either of the previous GTs he started this year could make him more determined to get to the finishing line this time.
But it’s also true that all of Petacchi’s efforts, the thousands miles already in his legs, may took their toll on him, and force the number one sprinter on the planet to pull out of the race. The way it happened at Le Tour.
Time – and the road – will tell.