By Andrew Hood
Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) opened the Italian racing season in the same way he’s done the past five seasons, with victory in the GP Costa degli Etruschi.
Just like he’s done every year since 2005, “Ale-Jet” crossed the line Saturday with his arms raised high in triumph in Italy’s first race of the season.
This time, he out-kicked neo-pro Jacopo Guarniere (Liquigas) to successfully defend his title in the Italian season-opener. Robert Hunter – whose Barloworld squad saw 21 of its team bikes stolen this week during a training camp – bolted to third.
“I might be 35, but my sprint today shows that I still have something to give,” Petacchi told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I felt good from the start of the race and even in the headwind, I’ve won in these conditions a few times.”
The race saw the return of Ivan Basso (Liquigas) to Italian roads for the first time since the 2007 Tirreno-Adriatico following his racing ban for his implication in the Operación Puerto blood doping scandal.
Early in the race, Giovanni Visconti gave his new ISD-Daniele team some good TV time with a long escape, but the big sprint teams led by LPR reeled in the aggression to set up the mass gallop.
While it might be five wins, only four count in the official history books due to Petacchi’s controversial racing ban for Salbutamol.
Despite a prescription to use the asthma medication, Petacchi tested positive for high levels during the 2007 Giro d’Italia.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in appeal to uphold a one-year that also erased four stages in that year’s Giro as well as results taken in early 2008, including last year’s Etruschi.
“Whatever is done is done,” a bitter Petacchi said. “I will always count five wins here, not four, as well as 24 in the Giro. Whoever wants to count 19 can do so. I know what I have achieved, and that’s 150 wins in my career, not one less.”