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"The goal is to win as many victories a possible with the team. And to work hard for Cavendish or for Boonen. I'm here to make these guys win," Petacchi says

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele




10.01.2014 @ 11:29 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Less than a year ago the most successful of the current professionals Alessandro Petacchi decided to end his career but it only took one telephone call from Omega Pharma-Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere to convince him to come back. However, his time as a protected sprinter are over and he is preparing himself for a year of work as a domestique.


None of the current professional riders have won as many races as Alessandro Petacchi. However, the status as one of the most successful riders in cycling history doesn't mean that you can't work for others and that is exactly what the 40-year-old plans to do as he is finishing his preparation for his first full season with Omega Pharma-Quick Step.


When Petacchi geared up for the 2013 season, he was expecting to go through another season in the way he had done so many times in the past. As one of the Lampre-Merida captains, he was expected to win and had a strong lead-out team at his disposal.


After a tough spring season from which he again came away empty-handed, the veteran decided that he had had enough. Seeing his success drop dramatically had a bad effect on his motivation and he decided that it was time to end his career.


Earlier in his career he had played with the idea of ending his time as a professional cyclist by supporting Mark Cavendish in the sprints. So when Omega Pharma-Quick Step manger Patrick Lefevere - who was very concerned about the state of his team's lead-out train - called him with the intention of getting back on the bike, his fire was again ignited.


Due to UCI rules, Petacchi was not allowed to return in time for the Tour de France but on August 1, he joined the team in a completely different role than he was used to. After sprinting a bit for himself in races like the Eneco Tour and the World Ports Classic, he teamed up with Cavendish in the Tour of Britain.


The pair found their automatisms right from the beginning, with Cavendish taking three wins. Petacchi hopes that this is a sign of things to come as he prepares for his first full season as a lead-out man.


Petacchi is fully ready to work as a domestique and harbours no personal ambitions.


"The goal is to win as many victories a possible with the team," he told Biciciclismo. "And to work hard for Cavendish or for Boonen. I'm here to make these guys win."


Petacchi will have a race schedule that will be mostly identical to Cavendish's. While Cavendish has ruled out a return to the Milan-Sanremo, the 2005 winner of the race is, however, considering the opportunity to go back to his big home classic.


"The pre-season is going well," he said. "I haven't done much quality training but often this is what I needed. We had two training camps with Omega Pharma-Quick Step in Spain and now I need to finalize my race condition. But in Argentina [Tour de San Luis] and Dubai, I think I will be fine. Then I will do Algarve, Tirreno and maybe Milan-Sanremo."


At 40 years, Petacchi could be forgiven for having lost his motivation. He admits that this was the reason for his initial decision to retire but he is now happy to be back on the bike.


"Yes, it is difficult," he said. "It is important to stay motivated but it is possible. You must also have the power and the legs but there comes a time when you have had enough. In April last year, I was mentally tired while riding for Lampre-Merida. I wanted to stop. I lost the motivation and was a little depressed. I didn't like my role in the team. At that point, I didn't want to go on to the end of the season and needed to talk to Lampre to stop my career."


However, he was quickly approached by Lefevere.


"When I announced my retirement, Patrick Lefevere called me," he said. "It was a surprise. We talked for a while and I travelled to Belgium to meet him. He told me what my program would be and he wanted me to do the Tour with them. He got back with a disappointing message. I couldn't get permission to ride the Tour but when I started to ride again, I was with Mark Cavendish in the Tour of Britain and we won three stages. They were important victories for Mark but even more for me. They offered me to continue for a year and I agreed."


Petacchi has spent most of his career on Italian teams and his stay at Omega Pharma-Quick Step is his first at a major foreign formation. He admits to have already learnt a lot despite having spent 16 years in the peloton.


"If you look at this [the training camp], it motivates me a lot to work with young people," he said. "During the training camp in Oliva, we went to the velodrome in Valencia to study the position on the bike and make adjustments. The whole system of preparation is different and I have not seen anything like this before. Now I understand how many successes are obtained."


Petacchi may be the most successful rider of his current generation, with wins in all three grand tours on his palmares. In his heydays, he was by far the dominant sprinter and won a massive 9 stages in the 2004 Giro d'Italia.


However, he regards Cavendish as a better sprinter than himself.


"He has always been focused on the Tour and has been successful. Because I am and my sponsors have been Italian, I have always had my eyes on the Giro. In hindsight, I would have liked to do the Tour a few more times but I would not have achieved the same success as Cavendish."


Petacchi and Cavendish start their season on January 20 in the Tour de San Luis where they will also have Tom Boonen at their side.



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