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Fassa-Nation: Fassa Bortolo for the Tour
 
By Staff
Date: 7/3/2004
Fassa-Nation: Fassa Bortolo for the Tour
 

By Jan Janssens

The Fassa team this year obviously focuses on its Ale-jet, aka Alessandro Petacchi, winner of a whopping nine (9) stages in the Giro d’Italia! But it must be said that that focus is a bit less strong…Ferretti knows that the sprint finishes at the Tour are different from those in the Giro, more nervous and very crowded, allowing for strange things to happen. It’s not to be expected that the Fassa train shows the same dominance during this Tour’s sprint finishes as it did in the Giro.

Which isn’t to say that they won’t be a dominating factor, but the likelihood of the Fassa-train still being 6 men strong in the last kilometre is very low. Also because the other (even sprinter-) teams will likely have a “you’ve got Petacchi….you do the chasing yourself” attitude towards Fassa. Lotto-Domo’s DS Marc Sergeant, for example, has said that they won’t be helping them as openly as last year anymore, except maybe for the last kilometres. And if that’s true there’s only Domina Vacanze left as a ‘pure’ sprinter team to help them out…but let’s take a closer look at these guys!


Coach Ferretti at the Prologue today. Photo by Anita van Crey.

Alessandro Petacchi

Sprinter extraordinaire, gentleman, multiple stage winner in every GT…nuff’ said. But seriously, if you’ve got a man with his references riding in your team it’s no wonder that you gladly will put all (well, most) of your money on him. A Zabel-ish sprinter, the kind that starts from way out and tries to make it to the finish line on strength…which is coming along nicely, lately. Because he’s being launched so well by his team he’s almost impossible to overtake, not even by master-hopper McEwen, as the Giro showed us. Other riders ride 4-5 sprints before the actual sprint, just to get into his wheel, giving him even more of an edge over them. The only danger is that another train with another powerhouse rides up next to him and launches from the side; I’m thinking of Boonen, Zabel and Cooke now. It says a lot that most sprinters weren’t heard saying “I want to win a stage,” but rather, “I want to beat Petacchi,” prior to the Tour.

Marco Velo

Ale-jet’s right-hand and final lead-out man. Multiple Italian TT-champ, and a more than decent sprinter himself, so if the Fassa’s lose Petacchi in the chaos of the sprints they’ve still got this man and Filippo Pozzato going for them. Managed to come in sixth in a Giro stage, after launching Petacchi to victory…which says a lot about both Fassa’s and Velo’s strength.

Filippo Pozzato

Fassa’s golden boy! After a classic season that was a bit less than he had hoped, young Pozzatto lines up for his first Tour. It remains yet to be seen how he holds his own in the high mountains between the big boys, but he’s already shown himself to be more than capable in the lower mountains and sprints. He’s likely to be given a free role, with an added obligation to help Petacchi out during sprint finishes. As mentioned above, he can take Petacchi’s place in the sprint, if necessary.

Matteo Tossato and Marzio Bruseghin

All-round workers, and both crucial members of Petacchi’s train, as was clear in the Giro. They’re both strong guys, who can keep up a diabolic pace for a few miles, just the way Peta likes it... Bruseghin is also a very decent TT’er.

Fabian Cancellara

Young, fast, and one of the better TT’ers around. With his tempo-riding skills he will probably be helping Petacchi out, but it remains to be seen if he’s going for a good GC himself, or is just aiming for a stage win. He can definitely win a group sprint if he would find himself in a breakaway.


Fabian Cancellara at the Prologue today.
Photo by Anita van Crey.

Juan Antonio Flêcha

An unusual Spaniard: he likes the Northern classics! As a former Tour stage winner he knows the drill, and if there’s one man the Fassa’s would send ahead to take the pressure off their leader, it’s Flêcha. The Tour passes over some of his favoured terrain: the Muur and Carrefour de L’arbre, for example. So maybe we will see him on the front lines there!


Juan Antonio Flecha. Photo by Christine Grein.

Kim Kirchen

If there ever was an all-rounder, it’s this man. He has shown that he can hold his own in just about every circumstance: he can climb, sprint and time-trial…but maybe his blessing is also his curse: he’s good at everything, but not brilliant at anything. Nevertheless, a fantastic rider to have in your team, and probably one of the most polyvalent riders in the peloton.


Kim Kirchen earlier this year. Photo by Delphine Page.

Aitor Gonzalez

After being hexed by Crazy Jane, Aitor never quite became his old self again. But he’s got to come back into that Vuelta-shape someday, and maybe that day (or rather, three weeks) is today. An excellent TT’er and a tenacious climber, Aitor isn’t really helped by the fact that there’s only one long ITT. You could also pose serious questions on his support within the team…apart from Pozzatto and Kirchen there’s not much GC material in there. But hey, Cioni made a superb result in the Giro on his own, while working for Petacchi even, so it’s not impossible.

In conclusion: A strong team around Petacchi, with a few rogue GC boys in there. But we’d do best not to expect anything from these boys when it comes to the GC, they’re probably not expecting much themselves either apart from a few stage wins. Petacchi is THE man to beat in the sprints, and will undoubtedly live up to that title.

Another thing which didn’t really strike me until after writing this preview, is that Fassa might have a very good TTT showing. I mean, look at their team: notable TT’ers like Velo, Gonzalez, Cancellara, hard men like Bruseghin, Flêcha, Tossato and Kirchen, and sprinter(-ish) riders like Petacchi and Pozzato. Sprinters often make excellent TTT’ers because they seem to handle the short bursts of power very well. I think they will be a force to reckon with, if they put their minds to it…which is not so unlikely with the TTT coming so early in the race.

 
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