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58th Vuelta a España - Spain, September 6-28, 2003
Alessandro Petacchi interview
2003: Petacchi's year
By Hernán Alvarez Macías
Alessandro Petacchi made history in Santander in the third stage of the Vuelta España 2003. The Italian joined two riders who have won at least one stage in Grand Tours in the same year, as only Miguel Poblet and Pierino Baffi managed it in 1956 and 1958 respectively. Petacchi has now achieved 11 victories in the "big three": six in the Giro, four in the Tour and the last one in the Spanish race. He is certainly at a magnificent period in his career. Cyclingnews reached this extraordinary sprinter after his exhibition by the Cantabric Sea.
CN: How was your victory in Santander?
AP: I felt very good in the end. It was a very difficult triumph. It was a very complicated day because it rained all day long, all the time. In the end I can demonstrated I have a very strong team with me. (Juan José) De los Angeles, (Volodymir) Gustov and (Sven) Montgomery worked the whole stage and I also had the cooperation of (Matteo) Tosatto and (Guido) Trenti in the final kilometres for the final sprint. My team worked alone almost in the whole stage; Alessio, Phonak and Telekom helped just a little bit. It was a very dangerous finale as the rain caused some falls in the field. I was afraid of crashing, but I was lucky enough and I didn't. I had a good sprint in the last 200 metres.
CN: How does it feel to equal this record?
AP: I certainly wanted to do it because it's not that easy to win in the three greatest races in the same year. I didn't have to ride the Tour, but after the Giro I talked with my boss and we decided that I was going to compete in the "Grande Boucle" as it was better for me. I had already scheduled the Vuelta, but I was somehow tired. In the end I said "ok, ok, I'll go to the Vuelta". I like the Spanish race, I like to compete here and I like to win in the sprint if possible.
CN: How important is the team support for a sprinter to obtain so many victories as you did this year?
AP: Very important. Because of my own characteristics, I need much the support of my team in order to make a clean sprint because I dislike very tight sprints. I hope we can obtain another victory either with (Dario) Frigo or (Aitor) González in a time trial or in a mountain stage.
CN: Are you better than Mario Cipollini?
AP: Well, the asked me this one thousand times, but I'm not the one to say so. Mario is a very strong competitor of mine. This season I'm stronger than him I think, but that doesn't mean anything. Cipollini is not riding, he didn't race the Tour nor the Vuelta, but I do. In the Giro, Mario won two stages and I won six, but that doesn't suggest I'm better than him. One can win or lose a sprint in one second. He is a great champion, no doubt about it. And referring to me, this is a season almost impossible to repeat.
CN: How is your relationship with such a rival like Erik Zabel?
AP: Erik Zabel is a great champion for sure. He doesn't need a presentation, everybody knows who he is. He's a really strong competitor and last year he won the points maillot without winning a stage. This means he is very consistent. I'm maybe in better shape than him right now. However if I have a bad position in the beginning of a sprint, I can easily lose it. Zabel can win or another one can succeed. There's also Svorada, Furlan; they are tough sprinters.
CN: What do you think about Mario Cipollini's quick exit from the Vuelta?
AP: Mario didn't want to ride the Vuelta. We all knew why he was here and that he was going to retire from the competition.
CN: Is Fassa Bortolo going to support Dario Frigo more than Aitor González after the problems González had in the first few stages?
AP: I think we can support both because it's true that Aitor lost some time yesterday (note: second stage Gijón-Cangas de Onís). One minute and twenty seconds is a lot time and he had a puncture in the team time trial. He is one minute and a half down on Heras, González de Galdeano and the rest of the leaders. It's a lot of time, but we all know Aitor is very strong in the time trials and he can move up in the overall. Dario is also very strong and it's essential that he can follow the leader's wheels in the climbs.
CN: Which was your sweetest victory out of the 11 of this year?
AP: Certainly the first one in the Giro d'Italia when I was dressed in the "maglia rosa."
CN: Finally, are you planning to compete in the World Championships in Hamilton?
AP: I don't think so. They told me it's too hard and I think I'm going to ride the Paris-Tours that will be my last race if I finish the Vuelta in acceptable condition.