Alessandro Petacchi, the Italian sprint specialist with Team Milram, will miss the Tour of Italy with bronchitis, his German outfit said Saturday.
"I'm very sorry that I won't be able to start in the Giro d'Italia," said Petacchi in a statement. "Yesterday (Friday), I thought that I would be able to start, even if my condition is very bad because I have not been able to train the last 12 days. I feel better now but there is not enough time for a good training.
"So, I agreed with our team manager Gerry Van Gerven, that I would instead prepare myself for the Tour de France," the racer said.
The 34-year-old Petacchi caught bronchitis during the Tour of Turkey a fortnight ago, since when he has been on a course of antibiotics which have prevented him from training.
Veteran Erik Zabel will be skipper in place of the Italian, who with 24 stage wins to date is one of the most successful Giro participants, notching a post-War record of nine in 2004. Last year, he netted five more.
Zabel, whose previous Giro appearance came with T-Mobile in 2005, is currently getting over a knee injury suffering in the Fleche Wallone.
Milram did not mention Petacchi's doping appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which he filed after returning a non negative test for elevated levels of salbutamol last season. It's a drug used by asthma sufferers and Petacchi has clearance to take it.
The Italian Cycling Federation cleared him of wrong-doing, putting the non-negative result down to human error, but the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) took the case to CAS and asked that he be banned for two years.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008