Sunday's sprint finish saw Alessandro Petacchi steal the show to the rest of the bunch. But in this round-up, for once, we want to award the top place to a younger sprinter that, after getting off to an excellent season start, with several good placings and even a stage victory at Settimana Internazionale Coppi & Bartali, is starting to make the headlines at Giro d'Italia too. And, with the help of his third place finish in the frist sprint of the "Corsa rosa", mades his way to the Gazzetta dello Sport microphones.
And in a video interview with Italy's main sport paper, Acqua & Sapone-Caffé Mokambo's Crescenzo D'Amore said that "I've been a professional rider for five years, and it looks like things are getting better this season. I can't help but thanking my team: they support me, they bolster my morale, I've found the right place, that's all". the right place, and the right results too, with more of them likely to come "I'm satisfied with my third place finish. I am starting to get some top results, I also won a race this year. (At Acqua & Sapone) they expect great things from me, but at the right time only, as I'm still growing at the moment, and that's enough to me, for now".
Sure at the moment there's someone way faster than him, and close to anyone else, but D'Amore is not too upset about that. He wouldn't have any reason for :"Petacchi is invincible, unfortunately. Che vo' fa? ("What can I do about it?" in Neapolitan language). I may take some solace in the fact I'm five-six years younger than him. So maybe, when he hangs up his wheels in a few years, I can win some sprints" (laughs). The 25-year-old from Naples sounded serene and satisfied with Sunday's result, but he would never have us believe he's hasn't bigger targets than this. Actually he didn't even try, and admitted that "I am confident, I came here with the intention to do well, just like the whole team did, I hope I may get better results, and if I succeeded, I'd be very happy. If this shouldn't happen, well, I'd be sorry, but definitely accept it anyway".
More about Sunday's sprint: "Petacchi was great today, when he started his sprint, he really made the gap. But I was there with the best ones, battling it out, and that's a moral boost" Not the only thing that bolsetered his morale though: also his performance on Saturday's prologue helped D'Amore gain more confidence: "I think the time I set Saturday(09'12") was good; it was just two-three seconds away from Cipollini's and Petacchi's, after all, so what can I say? I hope I may prove I can compete with them".
Any victory would be welcomed, but D'Amore is not in a hurry. Sure he seems aware of his talent, and so was another talented sprinter of the Acqua & Sapone team, Freddy Rodriguez, the US rider (in fact the only American in the Tour of Italy peloton) we catched up with last Saturday at the race start in Genoa (see link at the bottom of the page), and that told us he knows D'Amore is skilled enough to take a win. Should the two guys work well together, their combination might give some unpleasant surprises to the other fastmen around.
After paying proper tribute to D'Amore, let's get back to the "King of Sprinters", Alessandro Petacchi, that usually lets his legs do the talking. But when the man is in front of the microphones, one can here his voice loud and clear too. Asked if he thinks that, after his first victory of the 2004 Tour of Italy, things would be easier for him in the upcoming sprints, Petacchi said "I don't think so. It could have been easy today (Sunday) too: sure having teammates that take the race into their hands and keep you at the front of the bunch is of help, but then you also need riders that know how to stay up front at 50 kph throughout the last 20 kms of a stage".
And asked by a Gazzetta journalist which part of his final sprint he considered "great", if any, Petacchi responded that it was "When I had to slow down the pace not to bump McEwen's rear wheel, and later found the strength to "re-start" the sprint; in situations like that, you gotta hove "explosiveness" and strength. I had (them) in the final sprint, and when I came around (McEwen), I showed great athletic skills".
More from the Fassa-Bortolo leader, that will hardly repeat victory in Monday's more difficult stage though: "Last year I won the opening leg and captured the Maglia Rosa. It was my first Giro victory. This time everyone, myself included, has different expectations from me. And (by winning today's stage) I showed I'm a serious and professional rider". "Well, You didn't need this victory to prove it" a journalist told Petacchi. "Yes, but had I lost the sprint or had a poor sprint, I would have been criticized. It's would been a normal thing anyway. Cycling is just like that, after all".
In previous interviews Petacchi didn't have kind words for Sunday's final circuit around Alba, that was deemed too dangerous by the same winner. He wasn't the lone ranger, as more criticism came from experienced riders like Cipollini and Lampre's Jan Svorada, who said :"I think this circuit was among the worst ones I have ever raced in stage events. It was too dangerous. I was on the right wheels, anyway, but simply didn't have good legs. So that's the way it all ended up. I didn't even see who came in first. But as I just said, this was an unusual circuit, and the riders that stayed up front could do better than me for sure".
Formaggi Pinzolo's Ivan Quaranta echoed Svorada's words "I am in good shape, but things didn't work out fine today. In a strange and dangerous circuit like this, if you didn't have had a strong team like Petacchi's, with riders able to keep you at the front, to win the sprint was a bit like winning at the lottery. Not even Cipo did his usual sprint. I think there shouldn't be finishes like this in professional cycling".
Vini Caldirola's appointed sprinter Marco Zanotti preferred to focus on his own sprint: "I was on Cipollini's wheels, waiting for him to make his move. But Mario probably wasn't at 100%, so he stopped pedalling; then I had a go at the sprint, but just went into a headwind and ... well, things are ok anyway".