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Photo ©: Bettini

90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003

Alessandro confirms it for himself this time

Italian sprinter's confidence growing day by day

By Gabriella Ekström in Saint Dizier
Alessandro Petacchi
Photo: © Sirotti

If Alessandro Petacchi's first win at the Tour was the confirmation everyone had been waiting for, then the second win was the confirmation Alessandro had been waiting for.

"This is the better win, because today I have learned that I can race well, even when I'm not feeling good. And if I'm racing like this when I'm not feeling well, one can only imagine what I can do when I'm in form," Petacchi told Cyclingnews post-stage.

During yesterday's stage to Sedan, Alessandro was in trouble at the back of the peloton and after the stage, his morale was at shoe lace level. "I spoke to Ferretti during the stage and complained that I wasn't feeling well, but he tried to calm me and said that it was only normal since I hadn't raced since the Giro. He said that since I had only been training I would need a few more racing days to get back in shape."

Ferretti might have made the correct judgment, but Petacchi was still worried. "Even at the podium after my first win, I was told by people that I didn't look happy, and that is probably true. All I was thinking about was the fact that I was riding so bad, and that really bothered me. I struggled so bad over every little climb. It still bothers me today, after my second win."

When asked to rank his finest victories, he will still chose his wins on Italian soil over his achievements in France. "The one in Lecce [1st stage of the Giro & maglia rosa] is the most precious victory to me still," he said. "I am an Italian rider and to defeat the reigning world champion in the biggest race in Italy, and to take the pink jersey on top of that, that is my finest moment in racing. After that victory I would rank another Giro stage, the one I won in Catania while wearing the leader's jersey. But after those two comes this one, because of the lesson I've learnt today."

The finish in Saint-Dizier was twisting and the roads were not blessed with the freshest tarmac ever seen. The last 300 metres were straight on to the line, and Alessandro jumped almost immediately as he came onto the final straight.

"I had Vainsteins in a position ahead of me, and I saw that there could be a close call if he moved a bit towards the barriers so I went really early. He didn't expect me coming so we had a little incident, but it was nothing major and it didn't affect the outcome of the race, so I don't think he and I will discuss that matter further."
Petacchi wins in St Dizier
Photo: © Olympia Photo

Petacchi also stated that he had to do a fair share of the work in the sprints, because since his first win, he was closely watched by the other sprinters. "Today I was really marked by Robbie McEwen and Jaan Kirsipuu. They'll get on my wheel and expect me to do the job, but that's normal since I won the first stage, and I guess I can expect a lot more of that in the future."

"The big difference between a race like this and for example the Giro d'Italia is that we don't have Cipollini and his treno in the sprints. At the Giro McEwen and I just used to get on his wheel for the sprints and after he had left the race, I sort of stepped into his shoes. Here there are no big sprinter teams that can just line up and power us all the way to the finish, so we have to do with two or three guys at the finish."

After his first Tour win he was already elsewhere, dreaming about winning at the Vuelta. After his second win, is he still ahead in his plans, or is he focusing on the present?

"In the stages after the team time trial there will be more stages suited to bunch sprints and I will hopefully get more opportunities to have a go at the stage win. I said two days ago that I'd like to do the Vuelta this year, because it would be a really beautiful thing to win stages in all the three grand tours in the same year, but I haven't really decided yet. I still think it would be a nice thing to do, but I don't want to exaggerate and do too many hard races in the same season."

After his first stage win he wouldn't call himself the greatest sprinter in the world, and he still refuses to do it. "Ah, well, you know, I really can't say that. But you can say it though!"

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