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Petacchi pulls Cavendish through Italy ahead of Milano-Sanremo

The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider guided Cavendish to a sprint victory in Monday’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage 6

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PORTO SANT’ELPIDIO, Italy (VN) — Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) talks calmly and makes himself hard to read. However, he clearly relishes the chance to work with teammate Mark Cavendish to help him win Milano-Sanremo this weekend.

“I’ll have an important role in Milano-Sanremo,” he said after Monday’s stage 6 at Tirreno-Adriatico. “It’s the most important race I won in my career, the race I cherish the most. If I can help my teammate win it then it will feel as if I’d won it myself.”

Petacchi sat on the steps of Omega Pharma’s team bus. The 2005 Milano-Sanremo winner spoke to the press as the TV inside aired an interview of Cavendish, who had just won the Tirreno-Adriatico stage. Cavendish thanked his teammates, from 24-year-old Michal Kwiatkowski to his 40-year-old leadout man Petacchi.

The Italian is enjoying a rebirth. He retired and risked leaving the sport quietly last year. Though he won Milano-Sanremo and the green jersey at the Tour de France, Petacchi could not sit still. Omega Pharma offered him a chance to lead out the world’s top sprinter and pulled him back in.

The pairing almost appeared odd. The two were at each other’s throats during the 2011 Giro d’Italia after they crossed each other’s paths in the stage 2 sprint finish, which Petacchi won. Now, however, Petacchi guides Cavendish on and off the bike.

“He was a young rider, I was a little bit of a veteran, but still I was able to beat him a couple of times. You have to have the muscles and to anticipate him,” Petacchi said.

“He’s sensitive. He feels the pressure, which you journalists make but that’s part of the game. I told him that. I think my experience, and [Mark] Renshaw’s helps, because we tell him, ‘Cavendish, you can’t let yourself not do the sprint. You can’t only think of the Tour de France. There are other important races before it where people expect you. Everyone will use those rides to judge you and talk well or badly about you. This is your job, your job is to win — not to just race.'”

Petacchi guided Cavendish to his second win of the season Monday along the seaside town of Porto Sant’Elpidio in southern Italy. He also won a stage at the Volta ao Algarve last month. From what he saw today, Petacchi said that Cavendish is ready to try to win Milano-Sanremo for a second time.

“Peter Sagan’s Cannondale team made a hard race on the last two climbs to put Marcel Kittel into trouble,” Petacchi said. “Mark honestly amazed me. It was a good test for Sanremo even if we have Tom Boonen, Michal Kwiatkowski. We can ride almost any type of race.”

He looked at the TV footage that was playing in the bus. He led out Cavendish, who remained seated for his sprint.

“When I start, I go very hard. When a rider remains seated, he has the good legs,” Petacchi said. “But it’s not the sprint so much but how Mark went on the climbs. He defended himself really well. … The win was important for him, for his morale, and for the team’s. Now we are ready for Sanremo.”