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Alessandro Petacchi pulled out of the Giro d'Italia on Monday night after x-rays showed he had fractured his left kneecap when he was hit by another rider and crashed after 47km of the rain-hit stage to Namur. Team Milram's worst fears were realised when medical staff at Namur hospital confirmed that Petacchi would require surgery on his kneecap that is expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks.
As well as forcing him out of the Giro, Petacchi now looks almost certain to miss the Tour de France, which was one of his main targets this season. In theory, Petacchi could be back in time for the Tour start in Strasbourg in a shade under eight weeks, but he would be unlikely to have much training time under his belt.
Considering his injury Petacchi's effort in reaching the finish of yesterday's stage with the help of three of his team-mates and substantial treatment from the race doctor was laudable. He later explained the incident happened when an Euskaltel rider crashed, and Petacchi was forced to stop. Unfortunately, Liquigas's Dario Cioni could not stop as quickly and hit Petacchi, who fell and hit his knee.
After coming in 15 minutes down, Petacchi was initially positive about his chances of starting stage four today, but was to learn the bad news. "It's the worst injury of my career," he said. "The main objective of my season was to obtain a good result at the Tour de France."
The Namur stage finished with more riders suffering damage as the result of crashes, although it was only to their place in the overall standings. Much of the leading pack was held up by a crash 4km from the finish, including Damiano Cunego, Danilo Di Luca, Gilberto Simoni and Michele Scarponi.
But even those who escaped this mess were not happy. Paolo Bettini was angry that his late move to catch Jos Luis Rubiera had been thwarted. "When I made my move to catch Rubiera, I was blocked by an official race bike and lost my rhythm," Bettini complained. "At that instant, Schumacher attacked and I was not able to follow. To have been beaten by Schumacher, my god!" the frustrated Italian added.
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