Saronni expects big things of Petacchi; Italian sprinter will ride three Grand Tours
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Monday, December 07, 2009

Saronni expects big things of Petacchi; Italian sprinter will ride three Grand Tours

by Conal Andrews at 8:27 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Lampre general manager Giuseppe Saronni has said that he is confident that 2010 will see Alessandro Petacchi return to his best form, and expects that the Italian sprinter will compete in all three Grand Tours.

“Petacchi has not been resting on his laurels,” Saronni enthused to Tuttosport. “He has the enthusiasm and motivation of a child. And he is an example for many young riders that are on the team. "

The 35 year old sprinter is moving to Lampre after two seasons with the LPR Brakes team. He took eleven victories this year, including two stage victories in the Giro d’Italia and, despite his age, Saronni feels that he’s got plenty of wins in him yet.

“For a rider of the characteristics of Petacchi, age is relative. He’s a sprinter who has managed well without exhausting himself. Cipollini won the world championship at 35 years old, perhaps Petacchi can do it at 36 in Australia and 37 in Denmark.”

Part of the reason why Saronni was keen to sign Petacchi is because he believes strongly that the Italian can earn the rainbow jersey. The rider spoke about this back in October, telling Tuttosport: “The World Championship is one of my main goals. One reason [Giuseppe] Saronni wanted me to go to Lampre is so I can concentrate on the Melbourne and Copenhagen championships. It is very satisfying to be part of an important team such as Lampre, a team which has full faith in me."

He’ll be part of the Italian team there, presumably alongside riders such as Alessandro Ballan and Damiano Cunego, but for the rest of the year he’ll be backed by a high-speed sprinting train that Saronni has put together.

“Depending on the period of performance and characteristics of each race, we will choose between Bernucci, who is a leading specialist as being the penultimate or the last man, Furlan, Lorenzetti, Spezialetti, Malorie, Bole [and] Hondo,” he said.

The latter finished second behind Petacchi in the 2005 Milan-San Remo and the experience the two sprinters have is something that could see them shine there again. However Saronni is concerned by reports that the organisers RCS Sport are considering making the race more difficult, and thus making it less likely that there will be a large sprint at the end.

Petacchi is, as might be expected, unhappy with this prospect and says that it “threatens to distort and ruin a classic monument.”

He argues that the race, “must remain the Sanremo, ie for fast riders. It must not become a second Liege-Bastogne-Liege or a second Giro di Lombardia . There are few Classics suited to sprinters, and they should leave them as they are.”

A measure of the enthusiasm that Saronni referred to is reflected in the expectation that the rider could well line out in three Grand Tours next year. Back in 2003 he took six stages in that Giro, four in the Tour de France and then five in the Vuelta a España. He’ll try to take stages in each again, with the latter helping him build form for the world championships. However it won’t be necessary to finish all of them.

“There are so many climbs at the Giro,” said Saronni. “I hope that Alessandro will win at least a couple of stages in the first two weeks. He’ll probably miss out on the last week, as it is full of mountains.”

He also envisages an early exit from the Vuelta, after perhaps ten days, and said that would be perfect to help him get in shape for the worlds.

The Tour would be different, though. The plan at this early stage is that Petacchi would go all the way to the end, aiming to take a special goal. “The Tour de France offers great chances for the sprinters: Alessandro could return from Paris with the green jersey of points leader,” he said.

As regards the second jersey target – namely the worlds – the rider himself is a little less bullish at this point in time. “Before making me a candidate for the victory at the World Cup in Australia I would like to see the circuit,” he said. “Ballerini [Italian team manager] said the course is not just for sprinters, and this worries me.”

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