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SAN LUIS, Argentina (VN) — Alessandro Petacchi abandoned the Tour de San Luís on Monday, leaving Mark Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step sprint train down one man.
“It’s disappointing,” Petacchi told VeloNews. “I’ve trained so much to be here and be ready to help Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish. I’m sorry for them. I was here for that and I wanted to do it.”
The Italian came to Argentina to leadout Cavendish in the three sprint stages. Last night, he instead sprinted to the bathroom often and to the doctor’s room.
“It was hard for ‘Ale’ all day,” sport director David Bramati told VeloNews. “He was feeling bad last night. I was in the room with the doctor and he came by every hour.
“We thought it was good for him to try to race the stage, but after 30 kilometers, he couldn’t really even stay on the bike. At one point, he had goosebumps all over his arms, he had cramps, he was vomiting. He was on his own. What could he do? He couldn’t do 140 kilometers alone.”
Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp) won the stage from an escape. The heat, reaching nearly 40 degrees Celsius, took its toll behind the American. Petacchi suffered and others, too. Bramati said that Nairo Quintana (Movistar) stopped with stomach problems and that the San Luís team had problems with two of its riders.
“I wasn’t able to say anything to Mark. I wasn’t able to stay in the group I was in so much pain. He went to get me a water bottle but that I couldn’t do it,” Petacchi said. “I think that was the first time in my career I wasn’t able to stay in the group on the flats.”
Cavendish would like to have had a better start to his season. However, Omega Pharma could not pull back the escape since the Belgian team was down one man and other teams were slow to help.
“We pulled right away today. We hoped other teams would help but we were alone,” Bramati said. “We pulled with six and then with five, no one helped. (Guillaume) Van Keirsbulck also is not in condition; he pulled 60 kilometers in the wind. The gap was still six to seven minutes. He was dead and then fell in a crash.”
The Gaimon group held 4:35 over the peloton at the line.
“It hurts a lot to lose Alessandro,” Boonen said. “We were already here with six guys, which is at its limit. If you lose Alessandro it’s at five. In a day, you have to sacrifice one to two riders, so you really don’t have anything left and you can’t make any mistakes because if you lose another guy, it just falls apart.”
Down to two stages to land a win for Cavendish in the Argentinian season opener, the Manxman did not answer questions after the race. The former world champion sat in the team’s bus and did not come out to talk when VeloNews inquired with the team’s press officer. He only said, “Can we have some privacy?” before Petacchi spoke.
Petacchi quietly and politely explained his situation. He said that he may wait for a day, until he feels better, to fly back home. His next race is the Dubai Tour.