Culture

Fast Freddie: The mad scramble behind Petacchi

This was not a very good day for me. The frustrating thing was that I had great legs. I felt great. I thought I’d put myself into just the right spot coming into the finish and help up there and then it just didn’t happen. The finish today was just chaotic. I almost killed myself coming in. The day was pretty much under the control of Fassa Bortolo all the way from the start. They allowed a small break to get away, mostly just to keep things under control in the field, and then they just held a very moderate pace. Actually, it really slowed down toward the last 30km today. It was more like

Stage 12 – Cesena – Treviso (210km)

By Fred Rodriguez, Acqua & Sapone Professional Cycling Team

This was not a very good day for me. The frustrating thing was that I had great legs. I felt great. I thought I’d put myself into just the right spot coming into the finish and help up there and then it just didn’t happen.

The finish today was just chaotic. I almost killed myself coming in.

The day was pretty much under the control of Fassa Bortolo all the way from the start. They allowed a small break to get away, mostly just to keep things under control in the field, and then they just held a very moderate pace. Actually, it really slowed down toward the last 30km today. It was more like a training ride at times.

The speed started picking up over the last 7-8km and we started working our way to the front. I found a good spot, but had to keep working to keep myself up there. Finally, with about 2km to go, I got right on Petacchi’s wheel and right then, guess who showed up? That little boxer McEwen. And sure enough he fought his way onto the wheel.

Still, I was right there and then, with a kilometer and a half, there was a big surge and we got swarmed. Crescenzo D’Amore came up and started taking me to the front and I found Giovanni Lombardi. We had planned to work together, so this was good. I figured we were in good shape at that point. We hit the corner with about a kilometer to go. I wasn’t in too great a position, maybe 20, 30 guys back, but it was still doable. After the turn, I reaccelerated, coming up on the outside.

As I was coming up on the outside, one of these young riders from a smaller team essentially threw a block on me and I had to lock it up and went into the guard rails and got a couple of face slaps from the spectators sticking their heads out into the course. I had no idea what had just happened either. I didn’t know if I had hit a rider or if I was crashing or what. Then I realized that I was still on my bike, and I wasn’t crashing. But by then I’d lost a couple of meters on the guy ahead of me, and I realized at that point that I had no shot at a win today.

I think it was right around then that Marco Zanotti crashed, too. It was pretty eventful, those last few meters. Some days I wish we had a camera on our bikes, just to give people an idea of just how insane it is up there.

And, up ahead, Alessandro Petacchi literally glided in for another win.

After win No. 6 he was on TV saying how important his team is to him. It’s true. There is no team here that can even come close to delivering a guy to the line like Fassa Bortolo has been able to do with Petacchi. It’s impressive to watch and a real struggle to beat. This year’s Fassa team really has had no challengers this year. Even Cipollini and the Domina Vacanze team weren’t up to their level. Cipollini has had incredible trains in years past, but this year, he didn’t quite have the support.

Not to take anything away from Petacchi. He is an incredible sprinter, but he goes through a lot less trouble than those of us behind him do.

In my case, for example, the lead-out is basically Ferrigato and D’Amore. It’s hard even to find one another while people are passing left and right; trying to get out of the box and set up a lead-out adds a whole other dimension of complexity to it that Fassa doesn’t even see, let alone worry about.

It’s frustrating when you know that you have the legs and the strength, but have to use up most of both just to get into the right position to do your sprint. I know that if I get the chance that I can give Petacchi a run for his money again.

In a way, it makes me feel even better about the win that I did manage to get the other day. I am sure that I ended up putting out way more energy than did Petacchi on that one. It was a lot of work just getting up there. I wish sometimes I could put power meters on all of our bikes and see just how much energy we put out over the last 10km. I’d wager that those of us fighting to get into position spend a huge amount more than he has to. It’s impressive to see how a solid organization can deliver a guy to the line like that.

The unfortunate thing is that while I spent a lot more energy winning the stage into Carovigno, I spent even more today and got no results in the process. It’s almost like a lottery.

Maybe I can draw another winning ticket one of these days.