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Alessandro Petacchi using Tour Down Under as springboard to Milan-San Remo

2011 Giro d'Italia stage 2
Mark Cavendish's protest notwithstanding, Alessandro Petacchi gets the win in stage 2 of the 2011 Giro d'Italia. Photo: Graham Watson (file)

Alessandro Petacchi hopes another shot at victory at Milan-San Remo will be paved via a trip to Australia for his first-ever appearance at the Tour Down Under next month.

The veteran Italian confirmed he will race in the WorldTour season debut in what’s part of an early-season racing schedule designed to arrive at Milan-San Remo in winning form.

“I have raced on the roads of many nations during my career, but Australia was missing,” Petacchi told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I hope to get to Milan-San Remo with great condition and with a team that’s functioning perfectly. Those two goals are only possible with work, so it’s important to commit early to fast and powerful ride.”

The Lampre speedster won the Italian spring classic back in 2005 when he ruled the sprints. A winner of 51 grand-tour stages, Petacchi, now 37, still holds out hope of winning one more Milan-San Remo before retirement, likely at the end of next season.

With the arrival of several new faces at Lampre for 2012, including Davide Cimolai, Morris Possoni, Simone Stortoni and Davide Vigano, Petacchi said it’s important to post some racing miles as early as possible in the 2012 season.

“The decision to race at the Tour Down Under was also influenced by the ability to start working immediately with riders who will help me in the sprints,” he said. “The management and sponsors have made efforts to bring some quality riders to my side. I think the conditions are good, so we must now commit to work together to better our understanding on the road.”

Following a successful 2010 season capped by the green jersey at the Tour de France, Petacchi was off his best last year, notching only three wins all season. Despite racing all three grand tours, he won only one stage — stage 2 in Parma at the Giro d’Italia.

“I would like to return to the Tour, because the desire is still great to try to relive the emotions of 2010, when I won two stages and the green jersey,” he said. “It’s never an easy decision, between the Giro and Tour, because the Giro is the race that made me as a rider and the affection from the fans is always huge.”

Petacchi admits he will have to sacrifice some of his own chances to help GC captain Michele Scarponi, who rode to second in last year’s Giro behind Alberto Contador.

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