PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Alessandro Petacchi's chances of competing in the Olympic Games have been dealt a severe blow by the news that the Fassa Bortolo sprinter sustained a broken rib in his crash on stage five of the Tour de France last week. Petacchi underwent an x-ray this morning after pain in his rib-cage failed to ease when he returned to Italy last Friday. The scan indicated damage to Petacchi's third left-hand rib, which will take around 30 days to heal. "The pain will go away before then," commented Fassa Bortolo doctor Emilio Magni, "but the bone will need that amount of time to repair itself. Frankly, though, I am more worried about Alessandro's shoulder." With Italian selector Franco Ballerini due to unveil his five-man Olympic team tomorrow, Petacchi called his national coach today with the warning that he may not be fit in time for Athens. "In this condition I can't rest, I can't train and, more importantly, I don't know when I will be able to. That's what I told Ballerini," Petacchi confirmed on Tuesday afternoon. Ballerini now looks set to announce an eight-man shortlist, including Petacchi, which he will whittle down to five when several selection issues are resolved. As well as mulling over Petacchi's injury, Ballerini must make a decision on whether to adopt a different set of criteria to those which saw Danilo Di Luca deemed a persona non grata at the Tour de France. Di Luca has not been suspended by his Saeco team despite his alleged involvement in the Rome-based "Oil for Drugs" inquiry. Hot favourites to be named among the eight pre-selected riders for Athens include Paolo Bettini, Davide Rebellin, Filippo Pozzato, Cristian Moreni, Daniele Nardello and Michele Bartoli. It is believed that Ballerini has advised Giro d'Italia sensation Damiano Cunego to focus his attention on the world championships in Verona in October.
A rib injury may force Alessandro Petacchi to miss the Olympic Games in Athens in August.