By Andrew Hood
Alessandro Petacchi was the star attraction of Tuesday’s team presentation for new Italian-German squad, Milram. In a flash program, the Italian sprinter was the top name among a 30-strong lineup that also includes German ace Erik Zabel and Italian attacker Mirko Celestino.
Petacchi left the door open to make a run at starting all three grand tours for the 2006 season, something he skipped last year in his ill-fated run at the world title which stalled on the streets of Madrid last September.
“It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve started all three grand tours,” said Petacchi, who won stages in all three grand tours in his breakout 2003 season. “I confront this new adventure with enthusiasm and my first objectives will be Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and conclude with Paris-Tours.”
Petacchi made a late decision to start the climber-friendly 2006 Giro d’Italia after last-minute meetings with team officials, who really wanted to see their star product in the Italian grand tour.
He confirmed he’ll start the Giro and the Tour de France, leaving the door open for a Vuelta appearance as well.
Zabel, who left his longtime home at T-Mobile to join the Milram team, said his primary goal will be winning another green jersey at the Tour de France. Last year, T-Mobile left Zabel off its Tour team, prompting the veteran’s departure from the team.
“Between Petacchi and me there won’t be any problems,” Zabel said. “We’re both professionals and we’re both honest. Everything else will fall into place.”
Milram for 2006:
Daniel Becke (G)
Simone Cadamuro (I)
Alessandro Cortinovis (I)
Maarten Den Bakker (Ned)
Volodymyr Dyudya (Ukr)
Sergio Ghisalberti (I)
Michele Gobbi (I)
Ralf Grabsch (G)
Andriy Grivko (Ukr)
Daniel Haueisen (G)
Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz)
Matej Jurco (SVK)
Christian Knees (G)
Mirco Lorenzotto (I)
Martin Muller (G)
Daniel Musiol (G)
Alberto Ongarto (I)
Alessandro Petacchi (I)
Enrico Poitschke (G)
Elia Rigotto (I)
Fabio Sabatini (I)
Fabio Sacchi (I)
Bjorn Schroder (G)
Carlo Scognamiglio (I)
Sebastian Siedler (G)
Alessandro Vanotti (I)
Marco Velo (I)
Giovanni Visconti (I)
Erik Zabel (G)
Sporting director: Gianluigi Stanga (I)
Assistant sporting directors: Vittorio Algeri (I); Antonio Bevilacqua (I); Oscar Pellicioli (I); Jan Schaffrath (G)
Beltrán eyes Giro start
Veteran Discovery Channel rider Manuel Beltrán said he’ll be back at the Giro d’Italia for the first time in four seasons, but likely won’t race the Tour de France.
According to a report in the Spanish daily AS, Beltrán won’t be back at the Tour, where he helped Lance Armstrong win his final three of a record seven consecutive yellow jerseys. Instead, the 34-year-old will return to the Giro for the first time since the 2002 season.
“I am happy to return to the Giro, which is a hard race and that will have an important representation of riders of international prestige,” he said.
Beltrán will start his season at the Ruta del Sol (Feb. 12-16), followed by the Vuelta a Murcia, Semana Catalana and the Vuelta al País Vasco in early April.
“I believe that these types of races are ideal to arrive at the Giro in good form,” he said. “Also, this year I’ve had a good pre-season and I’ve done a lot of cyclo-cross.”
Bettini dreams of ending career on golden note
Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen were the star attractions of Tuesday’s Quick Step-Innergetic team presentation. World champion Boonen got the lion’s share of attention on the hometown affair, but Bettini isn’t one to be left out of the spotlight for long.
The reigning Olympic champion said he’s already dreaming of end his career with a gold medal performance at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
“I dream of ending my career with the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008,” Bettini said. “It would be something beautiful to end my career there.”
Bettini’s comments came somewhat of a surprise, considering the Italian star is only 31 and he’s not openly spoken of retirement. Even he admitted there’s nothing concrete, but fancied an Olympic exit wouldn’t be a bad way to go out for one of the best one-day riders of his generation.
“I still have fixed a date of my retirement, it’s too early to talk about it,” he said. “But it’s a race I’ve already dreamed about and it would be a beautiful way to end things.”
Considering his immediate future, Bettini said, “every year I’ve been able to win a big race, so I hope that stays the same this season.”
Liberty already in Australia
Liberty Seguros-Würth riders slated to start the Tour Down Under (Jan. 17-22) put in their first training ride near Adelaide. The team is showing off its new jersey, designed by EtxeOndo, as well as its new Specialized helmets.
From left to right in the photo are: Iván Santos, Eladio Sanchez, Luis León Sanchez, Jose Joaquín Rojas, Koen de Kort, Allan Davis and Carlos Barredo. Aaron Kemps will join the group tomorrow.
Naturino-Sapore di Mare hits training camp
Naturino-Sapore di Mare, the Italian continental team, will conduct its pre-season training camp next week at di Porto Sant’Elpidio along the Italian coast. The team will train for a week before its first race of the season, the GP Doha and the Tour of Qatar later this month.Riders attending the camp include:
Alexander Bazhenov (Rus)
Stefan Cohnen (Ned)
Gabriele Colombo (I)
Paul Crake (Aus)
Antonio Murilo Fischer (Bra)
Martin Mares (Cze)
Luca Pierfelici (neo-pro) (I)
Emanuele Rizza (neo-pro) (I)
Luigi Sestili (neo-pro) (I)
Rino Zampilli (neo-pro) (I)