Petacchi on the warpath...and on the move?

Without a win over the first three days of the Giro, Alessandro Petacchi has claimed that his rivals

Without a win over the first three days of the Giro, Alessandro Petacchi has claimed that his rivals


Alessandro Petacchi has suggested that the reason he did not win Monday's stage of the Giro into Santa Maria del Cedro was because several of his sprint rivals ganged up against him to prevent him getting a clear run at the line.

Speaking after the stage, Petacchi told journalists: "When [Jaan] Kirsipuu went to the front of the peloton he shouted to McEwen to follow him. Then the Estonian halted his effort and that disrupted my team. It's a shame because I felt I could have won."

While Kirsipuu's sudden decision to opt out of the sprint may have led to Petacchi and his lead-out men being blocked in against the barriers, there did still appear to be a gap there that a rider like McEwen would probably have exploited.

When asked about Petacchi's comments by La Dernire Heure, McEwen was dismissive. "When Kirsipuu and Julian Dean decided to attack, I simply decided to follow them. But if Petacchi thinks we are all just going to sit on his wheel and wait for him to decide when and where he will make his effort then he is very much mistaken. The fact that the Domina and Francaise des Jeux trains went to the front shows that instead of waiting for the usual slaughter that comes from sticking to habitual procedures, certain teams have decided to change their tactics. Leaving Petacchi's troops to themselves is the surest way of riding for second place. To win, you have to make tactical manoeuvres, and I'll admit that I profited from the work of others. On this occasion, I was the smartest."

The Australian dedicated the win to his son, Ewan, who is three today. He also explained how he saw the sprint unfold. "It was a complicated because of the long home straight. [Bjorn] Leukemans and Henk [Vogels] protected me from the wind. Julian Dean and Kirsipuu were in front of me. I was next to Petacchi but I decided to take Kirsipuu's wheel. It was the best option."

There was support for McEwen's version of events from the Giro's leading stage winner, Mario Cipollini, who retired last week. "At this moment, I think McEwen is the best sprinter in the race. I don't believe there was an agreement between him and Kirsipuu," Cipollini told Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Meanwhile, Petacchi's faltering start to the Giro d'Italia hasn't deterred a host of top sponsors from making early moves to the snap up the Italian for the 2006 season. With Fassa Bortolo's sponsorship of Petacchi's current team due to expire in December, Phonak, Liquigas, Domina Vacanze and Discovery Channel are all chasing the 31-year-old, who will be a free agent at the end of the year.

Meanwhile Fassa boss Giancarlo Ferretti is said to be negotiating with a prospective new sponsor in Holland. Ferretti is thought to be using Petacchi's oft-stated desire to remain in his ranks as a key bargaining tool. Should he be forced or convinced to move, Petacchi's destination is likely to be determined by financial considerations.

Liquigas and Domina Vacanze tick one box - Petacchi's preference to stay in Italy - but both are reluctant to welcome the Fassa team-mates the rider wants to bring with him: Marzio Bruseghin, Matteo Tosatto, Fabio Sacchi, Alberto Ongarato and Marco Velo. La Gazzetta dello Sport sets the cost of this hand luggage at around two million euros, with Petacchi's salary costing an additional one million.

With a glut of riders already on two-year contracts, it is also doubtful that Liquigas could find room for up to six new riders next term. Watch this space for further developments over the coming days and weeks.
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