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An interview with Alessandro Petacchi, December 13, 2003

Any sprint he chooses, he wins

Alessandro Petacchi: A need for speed
Photo ©: Olympia Photo

This season everyone has been blown away by Alessandro Petacchi, who accumulated an impressive twenty-four victories in a single season. Fifteen of them were won in the three Grand Tours, an achievement even he says will be almost impossible to repeat.

During the Vuelta, Domina Vacanze rider Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero aptly described Petacchi by saying, "Any sprint he chooses, he wins." With a reputation such as this, the man from La Spezia deserves some attention, even in the off season. Cyclingnews correspondent Gabriella Ekström was only too happy to oblige.

"I've been to Antigua, an island located east of Puerto Rico. I enjoyed my vacation a lot, even though it rained most of the time. At least I managed to get some relaxation," says Petacchi after returning back home from two well-deserved weeks of rest in the Caribbean.

It hasn't been one particular race, rather the whole season has been a highlight, and he admits that his multiple stage wins in all the three major tours will be very difficult to top in the future. "This season has been nothing but incredible, and I know it will be difficult for me to repeat it. At the same time, the results I've had has given me the strength and desire to continue and aim even higher."

"There is nothing I've done this year that I wouldn't do again"

One goal that has been on Petacchi's mind for quite a while, is to win a World Cup race, and not just a any World Cup, but La Primavera, Milan-San Remo. The first of 10 World Cup races in the year, La Primavera glows with a certain light for Petacchi, and it is no secret that he would like to join Erik Zabel and Mario Cipollini, among others as winners of the race. "It is the race of my dreams!" he says.

Paris-Tours hard to take
Photo ©: Chris Henry

During the season, he came very close to winning another World Cup race, when he was barely beaten by Eric Zabel on the Avenue de Grammont in Paris-Tours. Broadcast pictures showed Petacchi with his face buried in his hands as he passed the finish line in second place. Disappointing as it seemed, he denies placing too much pressure on himself.

"I wasn't disappointed. I was suffering from bronchitis, and considering my health and condition at this moment, I think I did very well," says Petacchi.

Nevertheless, second place always causes concern for a sprinter, so I ask him if he regrets losing a race for a long time afterwards, or is he able to easily move on. "If I have made a mistake, and lost because of it, I will be nervous until the morning after. The nervousness however, doesn't prevent me from focusing on the race or stage that is still to come."

So no regrets or important lessons learned?

"I have learnt a lot of things this year, as I do every year, but there is nothing I've done this year that I wouldn't do again."

Yay! Just in time for Xmas!
Photo ©: Tim Maloney

That said, it is obvious that Petacchi looks back on his year with great fulfillment, but for Alessandro, it's only a short winter break between this season and the next, and he's already been back on his bike since mid-November. "I don't have a precise plan for next year yet, but I'd like to do a good Giro, and of course, a great Milano-San Remo before that."

Two other natural highlights in 2004 are the Tour de France and the Olympics, but he admits to not having seen he courses as yet. "I don't know if I'll ride the Tour next year; if I'll do it, it would be to win a stage. For the green jersey... well, let's see when and if I'm there," he says.

With the Olympic Games not until August, there's still plenty time for the sprinter of season to reflect upon the course and his participation. "I'd like to take part, of course. The Olympics is a legendary race. I hope I will earn myself a place in the Italian team."

"Hey, no Cipo comparisons!"
Photo ©: Dick Soepenberg

And with La Primavera more three months away, there's still some time for relaxation, and what could be more relaxing for a ferocious sprinter than taking a Ferrari for a spin at Fassa Bortolo's annual sports day?

"To be honest it scared me a little!" he says after admitting that driving a Ferrari was a big thrill for him, but that he wouldn't go as far as switching his two wheeled speedster for a four wheeled one. So what is the ultimate relaxation then?

"Just to be able to relax is fine with me. I like fishing," he says, grinning.

For those who have followed Petacchi in magazines and on the Web, if there is one thing he hates, it is being compared to Mario Cipollini. During this year's Tour de France, he told the press over and over again he was not the person to answer the question of whether he was a better sprinter than Cipollini. While we may never hear the answer to that question, can he at least admit that he is a better looking sprinter than Mario?

"Hah. Thank you for the compliment, but you know that when it comes to Cipollini, I don't make comparisons."

See also: 2004 Fassa bikes arrive just in time for Christmas, January 2003 interview with Alessandro Petacchi; Petacchi's Pinarello Dogma at the Giro d'Italia; Tour de France interview; Vuelta a España interview
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